Off the top of your head, you might think that Hollywood, California is the world’s largest producers of movies. In reality, Hollywood’s rate of production dwarfs in comparison to India’s film industry. India is home to several film industries in multiple languages including Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi. Popular Hindi cinema (known widely as Bollywood) is known around the world for its recognizable features: large casts, elaborate sets, beautiful costumes, and song and dance interludes.
You might be surprised to learn that most people working on set are men. Traditionally, the majority of jobs like costume designer and makeup artists were held by men. Like in other places across the world, this slowly changed. More women assumed roles as hairdressers, costume designers, choreographers, production assistants, executives, and directors in the early 2000s.
One Bollywood job stubbornly remained the province of men: makeup artist. The Cine Costume, Makeup Artists, and Hairdressers Associations (CCMAA) denied women admission to their union “to ensure that male members are not deprived of working as make-up artists.” They rationalized that “if the female members are given make-up artists cards then it will become impossible for the male members to get work as makeup artists and they will lose their source of livelihood and will be deprived of their earnings to support themselves and their families.”
While women could work as makeup artists for private events—parties, fashion shows, and weddings—they had to sneak around film sets. One such makeup artist, Charu Khurana, would routinely covertly work in actors’ trailers or hotel rooms. If Khurana was seen on set, members from the CCMAA would appear and stop the film from shooting.
Charu Khurana decided to file a lawsuit against the CCMAA. After years of legal battle, the Indian Supreme Court ruled in her favor. The CCMAA could no longer discriminate against makeup artists based on their gender identity. Khurana became the first woman in India to have the legal right to work as a makeup artist on movie sets.
- Changemakers: Twenty Women Transforming Bollywood from Behind the Scenes
- Support independent South Asian cinema in Austin through programs like the Indie Meme Film Festival, and female filmmakers through the Transform Film Fest