Love in the time of representation
Affordability came into the picture to address the fact that she herself couldn’t afford the mainstream merchandise.
World cinema, to different degrees of success, has been trying to get representation right; be it in the arena of gender, sexuality, race, caste or religion. Bringing a slice of that representation to your living room is The Women of Cinema’s pop-up art line that celebrates love for women and LGBTQIA characters on screen. And as exclusive as it sounds, at just Rs 99, it’s far more affordable than your favourite brand of foreign coffee! All this, like the Instagram page (@thewomenofcinema) itself, was born out of a desire to access affordable art, declares Nivedita, the woman behind the venture.
The origin story
“It really started with the new year and every brand pushing us to buy planners and journals. Their designs were great but I just couldn’t attach myself to Breaking Bad or Peaky Blinders (or what you might call mainstream entertainment). I wanted to be able to wear a Parvathy quote on my T-shirt like how I have AR Rahman on it. The way we celebrate SPB, we don’t give the same recognition for female singers like Chithra or Susheela. Like how we take pride in wearing Kaala or Kabali merchandise, I wanted to have representation of other characters (women and LGBTQIA) in something even as simple as a Polaroid in your notebook. I was speaking with my friends and I thought maybe I should design something myself,” she narrates.
And so her team of three got to working on a limited series of posters, Polaroids and postcards, presenting simple, interpretative glimpses into the world of select series — Schitt’s Creek, The Bold Type, Sex Education, Fleabag, Anne With An E and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. All of them offering love in its many diverse forms; be it sisterhood or female friendships or homosexual romance or even self love. “The criteria was to do anything other than heterosexual love. Another condition was that at least one person on the team should have watched the series or movie in its entirety so as to get the representation right,” she notes.
Of art and access
Affordability came into the picture to address the fact that she herself couldn’t afford the mainstream merchandise. And a deeper principle that happened to cross her path. Thanks to an art teacher/entrepreneur she had to interview during her media days.
“She pointed out that in Tamil households, at least in middle-class homes, there is no culture of hosting art or drawings in big frames; we don’t spend on this. But to understand the ethos of a situation, we need to look at their art. And for that, art has to be affordable. Only then, will people consider putting it up in their house. Otherwise, they would go for what they can afford — even if it’s just the saami padam in the calendar. She expressed this theory and it stuck with me. So I decided the price of the art pieces would only be a two-digit figure,” she explains.
Appreciation has been coming in from many quarters; even from people in the regional film industry. Kerala has been leading the list in terms of orders, says Nivedita.
The project was also an attempt to do the opposite of what the page, in general, set out to do. “The aim of The Women of Cinema is that I didn’t want to analyse women-centric films or openly sexist/misogynistic films. I wanted to analyse the films we see on a regular basis — the normal films that actually won awards. They win the awards because they are good on a whole and so they set a standard for future ‘good’ films. But how are women represented in these ‘ideal’ films,” she elaborates. The project, on the other hand, takes the time to appreciate the few films and series that are clearly off mainstream in its treatment of women, queer characters and the stories around them.