Why did you decide to have an all-girl crew for your film Girls Will Be Girls?
Ali Fazal: This particular challenge came out of necessity. When we began our project Girls Will Be Girls, the movie which we will be shooting in October, we realized that we wanted an all-girl crew as much as we could. Suddenly we looked at the light department and realized that there was nobody. I mean in the last five years, female cinematographers have emerged. We decided to search. There were only a couple of female gaffers. Otherwise, there was nobody. That’s when Tanya, one of our associates, came up with the idea, why can’t we do this?
Richa can elaborate about this whole program. We made an announcement and about 40-50 girls applied for this. We chose 10. We are very excited. I think this is a starting foundation for this particular demand. The idea is to champion these few who can eventually champion more and to create a system where this is normalized. Right now, there are no girls in focus, grip or lights departments. First, you have to create a pit to lay down the foundation. These are baby steps towards creating something basic. After that, we can talk about job placements. A couple of girls required stipends, which we are providing them because they are not from affluent backgrounds.
Since you have chosen to appoint an all-girl crew, how will you deal with the worker’s union who have certain rules and regulations?
Richa Chadha: We will deal with them later. We will find a way to help women. It’s good for any field of work to have more women. Things will change when women will enter the departments which are off-limits for them at present, like light, sound, and spot. Why can’t women be hired in the spot department? Other than loading-unloading a spot’s job is to serve food and beverages to people, which can be done by women.
When we will shoot this film in Uttarakhand, we will try to hire more women locally as well. This is not a physically demanding job, it’s a technical job. Nasir from the lights department is helping us. He said he will teach our girls loading, unloading and everything else that has been denied to them. He has given us a space free of cost to learn. When people see that someone is trying to do something good, they come forward to help.
How did this initiative start?
Richa: Shuchi (director of Girls Will Be Girls) wanted an all-female crew. Because she had directed a short film with an all-female crew. She said it was easy for her to work on that project. So, she said she wanted to do the same in the feature film.
The thing is that the perception needs to change. Earlier people used to say that achhe ghar ki ladkiyaan film industry mein nahin jaati. Ab har ghar ki ladkiyaan aati hain film industry mein (People used to say girls from good families don’t work in films. Nowadays, girls from every family want to work in films).
Ali: Also, the exploitation of men will reduce. Spot boys are the first men in and the last men out. They work for 16 hours on a 12-hour shift. But when the work is equally distributed and there’s some decorum, everyone will start respecting their time as well.
Ali: It’s happening in the west. My film Kandahar was lit by a female gaffer. Our line producers were women. And this was in Saudi Arabia where nobody had shot before. You know, there were people from 65 countries on our set. Our action team was Bulgarian, camera team was Spanish. These are geographically different people. Men and women were all equal during the shoot. This is a starting stage of normalizing that in our industry.
What plans do the two of you have for production?
Richa: We are developing a lot of films and shows now. I have also written a film for myself and will find a good director. We are also producing a big show about the women who pass IFA, IPS, and UPSC exams.
Ali: Then there are some international collaborations that we are excited about. We’re going one step at a time, right now we’re focusing only on Girls Will Be Girls.
How do you make time for production because you’re both such busy actors?
Ali: It is hard. Halfway through we realized that we have taken up something very challenging. At the same time, we know that we have to do it properly. We can’t do it half-heartedly. That’s why we started this program. We didn’t have to, because we are three months away from production. So, casting is on, budgets, producers, everything is happening. Shuchi, our director, has flown in. She is staying at our home because we have turned our home into our office.
What’s the update on your acting projects?
Richa: Fukrey 3 is almost complete. Then I may be doing something with Sanjay Leela Bhansali Sir. After that there’s Great Indian Murder Season 2. And then I have an international film at the end of the year.
How have things changed for brown people in the West?
Ali: A lot of things have changed. My last film, Death On The Nile was never written for a brown person to act in. The part was played by George Kennedy, a white person in the original. Kenneth Branagh took the lead and wrote the part for me. And I was not playing an Indian. Just a different colour. I had a pure British accent. The story is the same. It’s a classic Agatha Christie book.
Are Indians and Asians getting mainstream in the West?
Ali: Oh yes.
Richa: Yeah, look at Ms Marvel. It has a lead actor of Pakistani-Canadian origin and also Mohan Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar from India.
Ali: All eyes are on us. They realize how good the talent is. It’s world cinema. We just have to claim our share. We haven’t done that yet. We were stuck in a bubble for a long time.
How important is it to have an agent in Hollywood?
Ali: Yes it makes a difference. Because nobody knows you na? You have to be there. The big studios and networks work that way. If I’m there in LA, a lot of things happen. But also, half of my work is here. I think we have great stories to tell in India.
Richa: Here also it’s the same thing na? You won’t get big films as soon as you arrive in Mumbai.
When are you planning to get married?
Richa: This year. We are trying to fix the dates. Iss saal toh karni padegi (We will have to get hitched this year) (laughs).
How much will your initiative for girls impact employment generation?
Richa: The initiative is, in a way, employment generation. Actually, it’s more of employment representation. The work is already there. But the male gaffers have to do both day and night shifts.
There are so many more important issues, too. There problem of toilets for women still persists. If a junior artist gets her periods, she won’t be able to come for the shoot on that day, because there’s no place to change. She will lose her wages for the day.