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Can Farha help turn fortunes of women directors?

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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While the fate of their films has taken the shine off women directors in Bollywood, an upcoming film by Farha Khan might just spring a big surprise.

Films like Pooja Bhatt's "Paap" and Aruna Raje's "Tum" have flopped. Several women directors are finding it difficult to rope in big stars.

Deepa Mehta, who has worked with mega stars like Aamir Khan and Shabana Azmi, is yet to cast the female protagonist in her latest project.

Kalpana Lajmi, who worked with Shabana and Dimple Kapadia in the past, had to opt for newcomers in her latest film "Kyon".

She's struggling to cast for her next two films, a film called "Postman" about the relationship between a sex worker and a postman, and a film on terrorists in Assam for which Lajmi wants John Abraham. But will Abraham agree?

Tanuja Chandra, who's ready with "Film Star" featuring Mahima Chowdhary in the title role, says: "I've continued to make films my way even if I've been accused of not being commercial enough.

"My films like 'Sangharsh' and 'Dushman' had big stars. But they were as commercial or non-commercial as my later films which didn't feature a Sanjay Dutt, Kajol or Akshay Kumar."

Aparna Sen, who had almost signed Saif Ali Khan for her first Hindi film "Gulel", is suddenly without one of her leading men.

Ajay Devgan is still working for Sen. But she will have to start from scratch to get the project going. In the meanwhile she's trying to put together another Hindi film.

Parvathi Balagopalan and Shona Urvashi who released their respective films "Rules: Pyar Ka Superhit Formula" and "Chupke Se" on the same Friday late last year are struggling to put their second feature films together.

Meghna Gulzar, whose "Filhaal" didn't quite make it to the top of the charts, will be making her second film for Pritish Nandy Communications after a long wait.

There're several promising female directors coming up.

Scriptwriters Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani's daughter Zoya Akhtar, Leena Bajaj who's working with Aishwarya Rai and Sanjay Dutt in her first feature "Shabd", and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's sister, the gifted film editor Bela Sehgal, are turning filmmaker this year.

Will they be able to revive the glorious era of successful women directors like Sadhana Nayyar ("Geeta Mera Naam"), Sai Paranjpye ("Chashme Buddor") and Aparna Sen ("Mr & Mrs Iyer")?

Or will we continue to search for the lucid feminine voice in the patriarchal world of Bollywood movies?

The release of Farha Khan's "Main Hoon Na" in April will answer a lot of those questions. In her first directorial venture, feisty Farha is said to have beaten many of her male colleagues at the game of entertainment.

If "Main Hoon Na" turns out to be the first blockbuster of the year, women directors will definitely be back in business.


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