One Woman’s Fight Against Gender Bias In Bollywood

By Arundhati Ramanathan
Mint, New Delhi.

MUMBAI

Make-up artiste Charu Khurana, 32, knows a thing or two about blemishes. To cover up red pimples, for instance, dab a bit of green and finish off with a regular concealer. But when the US-trained Khurana returned to India in 2008, she came up against blemishes that she felt compelled to expose: it was the ugly practice of the Cine Costume Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association (CCMAA) that mandated that women could only be hair dressers and not make-up artists.

The rule, made to keep women from competing with men for jobs, has held sway for close to six decades with little resistance from women. But when Khurana was denied membership by the association — only members are allowed on film sets — on grounds of being a woman, she pursued the matter till it reached the Supreme Court.

The hearings are scheduled to resume on November 10 when a two-judge bench will hear from CCMAA. On November 3, the judges called the bias “illegal”.

“How can this discrimination continue? We will not permit this. It cannot be allowed under our Constitution. Why should only a male artist be allowed to put make-up? How can it be said that only men can be make-up artists and women can be hairdressers? We don’t see a reason to prohibit a woman from becoming a make-up artist if she is qualified,” said justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit.

There was more: “You better delete this clause on your own,” the judges told CCMAA. “Remove this immediately. We are in 2014, not in 1935. Such things cannot continue even for a day.”

Many male make-up artists have already started feeling the jitters following the Supreme Court’s stance.

“We will accept whatever the Supreme Court decides. But we may lose out on our jobs if women are allowed to enter the field,” said Stanley D’Souza, a senior freelance make-up artist and general secretary of the union, which has 2,000 members — all men, of course.

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