MUMBAI: "The thing women have yet to learn is – nobody gives you power. You just take it." – Roseanne Barr
Not surprisingly, women in the Indian film industry have learnt that and how! While we have the much lauded women entrepreneurs in the industry like UTV co-founder Zarina Mehta, Balaji Telefilms’ Ekta Kapoor, BAG Films’ managing director Anurradha Prasad and Television Eighteen executive director Vandana Malik; there are a few un-sung "she-ros."
Corporates like Eros International, UTV, Studio 18, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, involved in the filmed entertainment business have at least one woman as a part of their senior management team.
"Women are a lot more sincere and diligent workers. In our company we have several women at the senior management level who handle their portfolios successfully," says Studio 18 CEO Sandeep Bhargava.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Businessofcinema.com pays a tribute to all these power women in the film industry who have been silent yet strong and pivotal decision makers. These professionals have managed to carve a niche for themselves in what used to be a totally male dominated industry until a few years ago.
Eros International chief operating officer Jyoti Deshpande
Jyoti’s tryst with the media and entertainment industry started in the early 90s when she worked in an ad agency Hindustan Thompson Associates (now JWT). In 1997 she moved to London to head sales for Zee Telefilms, after which she was instrumental in setting up the B4U channel for Kishore Lulla. In 2001 she finally joined Lulla’s company Eros International. She now heads Eros International, which is one of the oldest and largest corporate in the business as chief operating officer. Jyoti is also on the company’s board of directors.
"The entertainment industry is essentially male dominated, but I see a lot more women now in film making, production and distribution as well. I have had a great journey and have not seen any differential treatment meted out to women viz-a-viz men but I must say that being a woman is a lot easier now. Even unpolished people are nice and respectful to women. I have not had an unpleasant dealing. The trick really is to wear different hats while talking to different people, be it a broker in remote location of India," opines Jyoti.
UTV senior vice president motion pictures production Alpana Mishra
Alpana has worked with Leo Entertainment (Leo Burnett’s entertainment consultancy division) as business head for film marketing for five years. She then turned to UTV to handle production and has been doing so for almost two years now.
"I am working with almost 60 per cent women and girls around me in the production team. Women are a lot more organized, detailed and structured, which is of great help in film production."
Studio 18 senior vice president production Chitra Subramaniam
Chitra worked in the ad world for 10 years and shifted to movie production in 1999. She has worked with the likes of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Jhamu Sughand and Ram Gopal Varma. Her tryst with corporate Bollywood started with Percept Picture Company where she was the business head for feature films. Currently she looks into Studio 18’s film production business.
With more than eights years of work experience in movie production, Chitra feels that when it comes to film production, men tend to trust women more for the work to be done well. “Today it is incredible how women are becoming an integral part of movie marketing and distribution. Gender difference is no longer derogatory," she voices.
Inox Leisure vice president operations and support Daisy Lal
Like Studio 18’s Priti, Daisy too comes from the hospitality industry and worked with the Taj Group of Hotels for five years. She then moved on to Fun Republic as a part of the core team and worked there for a little over three years. Daisy is currently in-charge of setting up new multiplexes and service standards at Inox Leisure.
"I come from the hospitality industry and have been well grounded in managing people. Hence that experience assists me in the exhibition industry. There are a lot more men in this industry but I must say that men are more sensitive to women so I have had to face fewer challenges in that sense."
PVR senior vice president sales and marketing Shalu Sabharwal
At a time when people leap jobs as soon as another lucrative one comes their way, Shalu has been with PVR for as many as 14 years.
From being an air-hostess earlier, she is now the senior vice president sales and marketing at PVR. She started out with being a freelancer at PVR for four years. Shalu then moved on to handle the marketing function for the company’s in-house magazine and cinemas and was later absorbed as the marketing manager.
"I have lived my life in this industry. It’s been 14 years and I must admit that they have been truly entertaining. Like most other industries, cinema exhibition too is male oriented; however I feel that today a woman who knows her job is well respected."
Studio 18 senior vice president marketing distribution and syndication Priti Shahani
Priti started her career with the hospitality industry as the head of sales in the Taj Group of Hotels and later moved onto Hungama.com as a founder member.
She then moved to join Sahara One Motion Pictures as head of marketing. Priti has been a part of the film industry for three years now. Currently she is the senior vice president marketing distribution and syndication at Studio 18.
"Having worked across the three industries of hospitality, digital and cinema, I can say that cinema is no different in its acceptance towards women. Initially one did witness a slight resistance and hesitancy from the veterans when they were approached for work but it all changed at an unprecedented pace," says Priti.
While at the Taj Group of Hotels, she reported to Sudha Narayan. Priti reminisces, "Now when I look back, I think I learnt a lot from her about how to handle teams. When I hire people, I look for talent and passion, not gender, except in the case of distribution and that too purely because of the nature of the job."
BIG Music and Home Video Entertainment chief operating officer Sweta Agnihotri
Sweta has been a part of the Indian music industry for more than a decade. Prior to joining Reliance ADAG’s BIG Music and Home Video Entertainment six months back, she was with Saregama India for 14 years. At BIG, Sweta handles worldwide rights acquisition of movies for Reliance Entertainment.
"When I started out 14 years back, there were few corporates in this industry and even fewer women. I remember walking into meeting rooms filled with men. However, now more women are infused into the system. The film industry is based on creative power and relationship building and I think women can handle both very well. I have almost 50 per cent female team members, who are a lot more dedicated, passionate and fun to work with."
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, India head of marketing Divya Pathak
Divya looks into the marketing activities of Walt Disney’s motion picture business in India. Prior to this, she worked with Sony Pictures India as the head of marketing, wherein she handled the Disney account for Sony.
This vivacious go-getter was with earlier with JWT as account director for 12 long years. Divya’s colleagues and peers, who have worked closely with her, opine that her forte lies in planning strategies.
Kudos to these women for having made their mark in the industry and here’s wishing all of you a VERY HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY!!
(Disclaimer: The order of appearance of women featured in this section is not a ranking)
Editor’s Say: Businessofcinema.com apologises on having missed out on other such enterprising women in the industry. We assure you that it was unintentional.