I am a woman. I am a filmmaker.

There is something strange about an article headline that screams “Don’t call me a woman filmmaker” – It reads to me as if the comment came from someone who is ashamed of being a woman. And surprise surprise how do I  feel when I discover that the comment is attributed to me?? Well that’s the kind of thing that makes me type out this note at 12:58 AM.

I have been a woman much longer than I have been a filmmaker and my identity as a woman is something I cherish even more than my identity as a filmmaker.

I hope a big part of this short journey of mine as a filmmaker has been about venturing into uncharted territories. About taking risks and finding new ways. However when folks shine the spotlight on my gender and ignore everything else, it really does irritate me.

So I have stated time and again that a filmmaker should be judged by their work and not their gender.  And that simply is the point.

Being a woman is a privilege I was born with, something that has shaped my sensibility and sensitivity and world view for as long as I have known.  Like most women I too am strengthened by my experiences and it is the truth when they say “a woman is like a reed, she bends to every breeze but she does not break in a storm.”

‘Woman’ is the far deeper, wider and bigger word – is it even right to use it to qualify a more limited term like ‘Filmmaker’? Think about it🙂

P.S: I  spoke to the journalist who interviewed me for that article and found that she hadn’t framed the headline – apparently her newsdesk thought it was an appropriate one!! Grrrr….

61 thoughts on “I am a woman. I am a filmmaker.

  1. I think it’s important for everyone to have someone that they look upto, regardless of whether their “idol” is fiction or nonfiction. I’m 23 years old and I’m striving to do everything and anything to make my parents proud. More than anything else, they want me to become a doctor. Although I am already on the path to fulfilling their dreams, my heart and soul is in the film industry. People my age usually want to be an actor, but my intentions are different. I have always envisioned myself as a director, much like yourself. It’s not even fair to make that comparison, but you’re that person that I look upto. Whatever I do in life, I do hell of a great job. I will get that medical degree in a few more years and I will start my second journey in life. I am sure I will bump into you some time in the future, but I would love to have a conversation with you now. I know that’s not possible since you have almost a million followers on facebook and many more outside of social media, but I’m going to stay optimistic. Good luck with all your future projects and I can’t wait to see what you do next!

  2. Hi….Mam
    I watched Bangalore days since i am from B’lore even though i dont nderstand the language…A million namaskara to you mam..so nicely thread story with so much weightage given for each & every character,so nicely included our culture,tradition,present changes happening in the society,teaches the importance of relationships,lessons that life will teach us,gentle & natural comedy etc…I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.Keep up the good work mam a big salute to you.a sashtanga namaskara to you mam with lots of respect.

  3. Hi Anjali,

    I am from Chennai and havent watched much Malayalam films. I was swept by the buzz around BD and watched it last week. It was entertaining and brilliant. So I picked up your other movies like Ustaad Hotel. Probably its one of the best films I have watched recently (Dulquar is my fav actor now). Next in my list is Manjadikuru. I am extremely elated to see this blog and your active presence online. How else will I get a chance to congratulate you personally? I am so glad that I could do that now. Your movies and writing so far is brilliant. Thanks for the wonderful work. The movies have the right ingredients atypical of a Malabari biriyani. Though I dont want to jump the wagon and spell “the new wave of malayalam cinema”, I would say I will keenly watch out for the movies from this industry.

    I am going to “Stay foolish & Stay Hungry” for your work. Waiting for the next surprise, I know its a challenge

    Arvind

  4. Hi Anjali, you are a brilliant and talented lady. I am a big fan of you. I love your movies very much. You are always succeeded in conveying the message. I think you can do something for the society. I wish you do a film about ‘depression’. Our people are unaware about this mental condition (mental disorder) and lot of lives and families are affected and destroyed by this. I am a victim of depression…lost my family, child and everything. If you need to write, I can give my story. I hope that will help some people.

  5. Anjali…well said! I respect your thought that a person should be judged for his/her work rather than looking at it from a male/female perspective!

    Having said that, in a land full of mcp’s and male domination (promoted even by the females if you please:/ ) i think it is an achievement that, in the arena of showbiz, a woman walks in to tell a story that is unique, different and more related to life than a handful of hackneyed productions that tread the same old path. What is more, she walks away with the ultimate award in the field, the adulation of the audience🙂🙂🙂

    Indeed i am proud that one of the top directors in a male dominated land is a bold, young, graceful n charming woman🙂 And much more beyond that, i admire the fact that you are one of those persons who has chosen the path less traveled…and leave a trail behind, inspiring many more such women to come to the fore.

  6. Hi Anjali,
    I am a big fan of yours right from the time I saw manjadikuru.. Since then have been eagerly waiting for your movies..:) Love all your movies till now. Excellent Script.. Waiting for more wonderful films..
    Eversince I read about your short film ‘Black nor white’, I wanted to watch that too. Please let me know if it is available to watch.. Would be great!!🙂

  7. Hi Anjali,

    I love your work! Your stories are really well developed and are so wonderfully devoid of cliches🙂
    Kudos to you and your team for coming out with these movies. Looking fwd to many more of these!

    I know you have a young child, if you ever want to try new bedtime stories, do stop by.

    Wish you the best!

  8. kooduthalayittonnum parayanilla polichu pengaley Nalllla padagalu vannal theatre il aalukalu kayarum ennu theliyichu congrats

  9. Absolutely true. I am a woman. I am a cinematographer. Ever so often I get asked questions about being a woman in the film industry and not about my technique. More questions on gender bias and surviving it than how I lit a scene.
    I love that I am a woman. I love what I do! The focus should be on one’s talent first more than the questions on gender, it’s usually very polarized.

    Yet to watch Bangalore days. Plan to! Been hearing great things! May you grow from strength to strength!

  10. Completely true…I don’t know when the world will realise to acknowledge a person by their work rather than their gender. I wanted to tell this out long back, when I used to hear simple designations such as “lady conductor” in the bus and so on. I used to ask why those people can’t just be known as “bus conductor” rather than lady conductor. If this is the state of a simple bus conductor, then what about the higher positions where the women rule? You have a admirable potential. I encourage you to explore it at its best!🙂

  11. ” Bangalore Days” was a film which is still running in my mind. Though I can understand Malayalam a bit, I found “BD” a refreshing scoop of home made chocolate ice cream. The Radio Jockey’s characterization was unique and her body language was so mature and majestic. Her eyes spoke so many unspoken words. I do see a few Malayalam films, but this has been the first of yours. I am going to see your previous films and I’m waiting for the DVD’s. All the best Anjali Menon. This is Ramanathan from Chennai.

  12. ma’am.. I am a big fan of you!! first of all hats off (y) You are just amazing!! i wanna inform you that i have selected your three characters as my dissertation topic. Shahana, Roja and Nithya’s character from Happy Journey.. i need your advice, help .. if you don’t mind plz gme your email id ..please ma’am!!

    • i can’t write in English coz i don’t know how to type …so who cant understand manglish
      for give me ….enikku oru sankadam maathrame ollu anjali chechyude kaarayathil…enikku chechyude sahodharan aakan pattyilla… achan aakan pattyilla …husband aakan pattyilla …cechikku ente amma aakan pattyilla…athu venda athu venda..amma ente ippozhathe amma thanne mathi…pandaaramadakkan sathyam paranjaal enikkuchechyude aarum aakan pattthathu kondu nalla vishamam undu…adutha janmathil enkilum chechyude aaroekilum okke aayai janikkanam…

  13. Calling a woman who makes film a woman filmmaker is just a technique [a disgusting one] of marginalization.

    Do we call Arundhathi Roy a woman activist or a woman novelist? Do we call J.K Rowling a woman novelist? No. We don’t.

    It is just the distorted vision of some people that gives birth to such gender biased phrases.

    Here is an interesting talk on gender, from by a Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is a woman.

  14. Calling a woman who makes film a woman filmmaker is just a technique [a disgusting one] of marginalization.

    Do we call Arundhathi Roy a woman activist or a woman novelist? Do we call J.K Rowling a woman novelist? No. We don’t.

    It is just the distorted vision of some people that gives birth to such gender biased phrases.

    Here is an interesting talk on gender, by a Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is a woman.

  15. As a male, I have the privilege of not having my gender getting dragged into everything.

    If I had been a white man, in Hollywood I would have the privilege of not having my work viewed through an ethnicprism

    • A person’s gender, community, religion, nativity, cultural background, family,teachers, age, exposure, etc. etc. are what shape one’s personality. They are not privileges. Your life is worthy when you are able to give the society more than what you consume from the society.

      • “Your life is worthy when you are able to give the society more than what you consume from the society’ . That is an opinion i find being echoed by a lot of self righteous naive people today. Life is different for different people, everyone starts life with the cards they are dealth with and what they make of it is entirely up to them. I guess then the worthiness of life varies from people to people and it can be based on a numerous factors the relative importance of which no other person than the one concerned can evaluate, nor you nor I. In your response to the earlier comment, rather than putting across argument from your point of view you seem to be correcting him, I find that pompus , arrogant and rude. If you may have not intended it to come out that way then maybe you should take a look at how you express the point, cause this a medium where even small differences in punctuation can change the context and tone.

  16. Hi Anjali
    I agree wholeheartedly with your take on this.
    However on another note I would like to say a very BIG HELLO from the past. I am sure you will not remember this part of the journey you undertook during your stay here in the UK. Nisha my wife and I do however remember the day you and your brothers spent with us in our little house here in the UK and also the meal we all went out to have at the local POSH Indian restaurant. We were really happy to have associated with such a talented film maker when we watched Ustad Hotel ( in a very very miniscule way). Both of us thorougly enjoyed the movie start to finish – thanks for making it.
    I am sure we will see very many great movies coming out of you yet. All the very best to you.
    Regards to your brothers too.

    Bye from some one you may not remember
    Ravi Nair

  17. Anjali menon … i watched the movie manjadikuru recently and i thought how you came to know my childhood story its almost same. thanx for creating a movie like this. This is one of my favourite movie.. Feeling nostalgia after watching this movie….thnx expecting such type of movie in future …

  18. Hi Anjali Mam, watched your feature film ‘Happy Journey’. Nicely done!!!
    Once again It is the marvellous acting of our great Jagathy sir that made the film a great watching. Thank you!!

  19. Grt wrds Dear ma’am,
    there nobody says that if u r a women , u can’t be a film maker,, we liks ur script..evn i was wondering aftr seeing usthad hotel nd manjadikuru, go ahead with ur grt wrks, we r with u, all d brgt

  20. The film industry in India in its whole century, never have had any film-maker with such great perception, creating such awesome movies; BEING A WOMAN!!! Unfortunately, all the crowd round the world cannot achieve higher levels of intellectual evolution to grasp the depth of work over gender in such male dominated field!!! So I think never ever should You be affected by such trash talk!! Just maintain Your integrity at such times!! And hoping you bringing up beautiful subjects; molding them into awesome scripts!! (And also incorporating me o work with You in any possible way :-P) Wish You all the best in all your future endeavors!!!🙂

  21. Hello Anjali,

    I am Kaveri, a student of Delhi University. Well, this is just a shot in the air, I don’t even know whether you would ever check this comment, but this seems to be the only way to get through to you. Please check this link.

    http://www.facebook.com/SubrahmanyaDasLekhanannalKattukalSanvadannal?fref=ts

    This book is my father’s 6 years of careful compilation and endeavor to enhance the social thinking of people of our generation. To cut a long story short, this book is the compilation of articles and letters written and thought by a 23 year old CPI (ML) the post emergency Maoist party member of Kerala and a very dear childhood friend of my dad, Das. He was a man of voracious reading and absolutely brilliant analyses. As the editor, my father has strictly taken care that it is not dumped as one of the many tributaries, or nostalgic books, he wants it to stand as a perfect example as to how concerns about the society led people to think. He clearly does’nt want it to be misconceived as another one of those ex-naxalites’ boring charcha. For this reason, the committee formed for the book release on July 14th (day of Das’ demise) in Thrissur is contemplating having an active youth participation. If you could be a part of it in anyway possible, it would be lovely. We want brilliant youngsters in every field to be a part of this.

    It may interest you that Das was also an ardent observer of art and cinema and his reviews of the then-contemporary movies like Idavela, Kanchana seetha and Pokkuveyil were noted for his different style of analysis. His review on Idavela was recently republished in Chithrabhumi (“Ee kuttabodhatthe naam endu cheyyum?”).

    Looking forward to a response from you!

    Kaveri.
    kaveriashok@gmail.com

  22. So, here you tell that you are irritated of being a woman filmmaker, rather than the just film maker. DO you know why things came like this in which people calls a woman achiever with the title, “The first women to do….”? Do you know why women stand a step back of men in society by atleast concept? Here I’m gonna tel out the reason what I figured out. The reason of this type of division is just the Women itself. When god created men and women, he provided each different style of lifestye for both. But, when generations passed, women’s mind blew. If a man cut his short, she needs to do so. If a man wear jeans, she needs to do so. God created us, humans, with differences, not in sameness. Due to this copying, slowly slowly men became the “standard”. Men run along their stream of the lifestyle provided to him and thus he could find out this world with lots of life opportunities. Women tried of switching their stream and thus, they couldn’t find a world of their opportunities. The men scientists found things meant for their opportunities and the women scientists too considered men as standard (since it’s become the natural phenomenon) and thus their inventions was to beat/copy these men inventions and thus their inventions also came to men’s opportunities. What i want to convey is that, if we draw the graphs of men and women lifestyle, we can find that men’s graph gone too far, and women’s graph as struggling to begin the graph. Well, God created us with differences and kept the streams to flow in different directions of equal lengths. Since the women’s graph hasn’t gone upto the lenght of men’s graph, here if a women Einstein come with this mind, women will be having a different lifestyle. What actually happened was that, men went t work and women thought of they going to work. It wasn’t what that should have happened. Nature created women with an upperhand than men. A woman can cry, a man too can. A women can work, a man too can. But, only women can give life to new body. If things haven’t went in way of copying men, women would be here, ruling the world, because they have the upperhand. Ms. Anjali menon, you are here with an intelligent mind and innovative creations. SO, think in a way of not copying men or running along the stream line of men. Try rebuilding the stream you missed. Once, Vangari Mathai, could run little of your stream by planting the tress, saving nature, all because of trying to improve the women’s life. Well, she was from a poor family, not so literated and if she could do that, why you couldn’t? You are having values in society. Think of running the stream of women, not switching to the stream of men. Well, I’m not asking you to quit the film industry. You are innovative there too. But, think of the entire women dynasty. Well, every man enjoy his ‘privilages’ due to somebody done something before. So, now onwards, entire women should enjoy the same.

    I know this page is not meant for what i wanted to convey now. I’ve written a story for a Malayalam movie and I’ve been trying to contact different directors via their websites. But, none replied. So, here I’m in a hope that you will help. If you have no option to deal with this topic, can you please give the way i can convey my story. The story gives importance to the way it’s been told rather than the story. The only similar kind of story came in Malayalam is Ustad Hotel. I didn’t mean that the movie is same as Usthad Hotel.
    This story gives importance to a 10 year old boy and the main actor. When writing this story, i kept either Dulquer or Fahad as the main cast. The main actress only popups at the middle of the movie and at the last and this is the important part of the movie. I just need you to have a mind to listen the story. I’m pretty sure that you will like it. If you can’t deal with this topic, please give the way where i can tell this.
    My name – Ashiq Rafa
    email – ashiqrafa@gmail.com
    mobile – +919745478890

  23. Creativity has no gender and if it does flow from a woman, why not? Not surprisingly did Indian philosophy gave woman the term “shakti”. Even though contemporary society may have created a stereotype of a woman as “weak” (and other epithets), it stands proven, that a woman is NOT inferior.

  24. so how wud u react if u were termed a dubai born and bred, mumbai based, woman filmmaker…..beating all odds…(as if they are odds) ..and successfully carving a niche in malayalam film industry…..?…:)….

  25. Dear Anjali
    A film maker has no gender. He/She should be judged by his work and nothing else.
    A woman should feel like a woman and man like a man. But most people use gender when equality is inconvenient. And that is a fact.
    Your movies are like pure fresh air in our polluted atmosphere.

  26. Just quick note on one of the most profoundly discussed topics of successful women. Our identity, be it man or woman is who we are, and will always be. Our passion or profession is what defines us and interestingly the world we live in, and how it affects the people in it.

  27. hahahahaha….. nice… ithu avasyam aayirunnu…. let me share it and hope this article will find her maximum readers…🙂 We need a community to work without any concern about their gender/cast/religion bla bla bla…

  28. Your Manjaadikkuru, together with Ozhimuri and Annayum Rasoolum, for me, are not just the best Malayalam movies in a long time, but should be considered as land mark movies in our history. Manjaadikkuru and AR, especially were such great experiences, whereas Ozhimuri ought to be most unique for having the story of a house wife seeking divorce for Respect, may be the first time ever in Indian movies.

    Just ignore all these ignorant frogs maam, please.
    I like to compare you to Nadine Labaki (not because of the style behind your movies), but for what you represent, in the maochist’s lead movie world of ours.

    All the best.

  29. Go ahead with your busy schedule. don’t care about them those who are sitting idle to say something. We are expecting more different stories from u. All the best.

  30. Hi Anjali,

    I do agree with you, although, I work in an industry (consulting) which is expected to be aware of gender diversity at the workplace and offer a flexible working environment. It is not so much if you are a woman, but more so, if you are a mom with young children which automatically entitles you to some considerations when it comes to assignments, work schedules etc. And I do appreciate the industry for this.
    But at the same time, I am now hoping to straddle the literary world as well – where, I guess such comments can color your readers’ or audience’ perception about your work. On second thoughts, however, being a woman (as you mentioned) is a privilege and there is nothing wrong in bringing the feminine sensibilities and sensitivities into your creative work. The world would be a sadder place if women cease to think and feel like women!🙂

  31. Dear Madam, Keep writing good scripts, good stories, …. we the audience are with u to give complete support. We are expecting very good sort of stories from u.

    Thanks
    Jithin.J

  32. Quality overrides all the classifications and the time places him/her where they deserve regardless of their gender like Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Kathryn Bigelow and Sofia Coppola and so on. However, that prefix to be criticized .. why should it be..

  33. Everywhere in this world, you may find quite a few people, who may judge you, or give ratings, based on your gender, rather than quality of your work. Just forget about them, concentrate in your work, just think about a majority waiting for your next work..!!

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