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Women are calling the shots in Tollywood!

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Lights, camera, and action! — These words are no longer the sole purview of just the men, as women have started calling the shots too.

In the male-dominated Telugu film industry, a slew of women like Manjula Ghattamaneni, Sri Ranjani, Sanjana Reddy and Sudha Kongara among others are trying to carve their space in the art of filmmaking.

Sri Ranjani, a protégé of Tamil director Selva Raghavan, is making her directorial debut with Raj Tarun’s forthcoming film Rangula Ratnam. “I narrated the script to several actors, and some of them did not even respond. So the waiting time has been really tough. And when I finally said ‘action’, my eyes got moist,” shares Sri Ranjani.

Responding to whether she faced any discrimination being a woman director, she reveals, “Never! Although I’m a woman, as a director, I have the command to control various departments. Managing scores of people and getting work done by them is really challenging, but that’s what I have learnt under Selva Raghavan over the years.”

Ranjani adds, “Balancing family and films was difficult, but women can multitask. All my ideas came while doing household chores.”

Sanjana Reddy, who will soon make her directorial debut with Raju Gadu starring Raj Tarun and Amyra Dastur, feels that producers don’t discriminate against women as it’s all about the business.

“I feel getting an opportunity itself is great! It took a lot of effort to convince the makers and I guess every debutant goes through it. As a filmmaker, you also have to think about the economics of the film,” she says, adding, “Initially, the team would look at me weirdly, as to why I got into the filmmaking business, or how my future would be in an uncertain industry. But I have realised that if you can convince the hero and explain to the producers about budget management, nothing else matters.”

Sanjana adds, “Fortunately, my team is young and Raj Tarun, too, calls me bro (smiles). Also, I don’t socialise much and only talk to my parents; they gave me the creative freedom, so my focus remained only on films.”

Acknowledging that women face challenges in any profession, director Sudha Kongara, who made a comeback to Tollywood with Venkatesh-starrer Guru, says, “The perspective and sensitivity that a woman’s creativity lends is unique. But when you are directing, producers don’t see you as a woman. You are just directing, it’s as simple as that."

Joining the bandwagon of women turning directors is Manjula Ghattamaneni with Manasuku Nachindi, starring Sundeep Kishan. Despite being the daughter of former superstar Krishna and a sister of reigning superstar Mahesh Babu, Manjula says the journey hasn’t been smooth sailing.

“The road wasn’t easy for me, but I eventually got the opportunity, that too, after dabbling in acting and production,” she says, as she adds, “So as long as people know you work well, you can command respect, and I was never treated differently because I am a woman.”

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