Panaji: From Nil Battey Sannata to Bareilly Ki Barfi, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari ties together stories with strong women characters. Her husband Nitesh Tiwari told the story of two girls who fight stereotypes to become wrestlers, with a punch in Dangal.
Ashwiny says it is time for men to stand up for empowering women – on and off screen.
"We are in the best phase in Bollywood with so many films on women empowerment. I would not like to use empowerment as a word. But so many films are coming in with women strong women characters," Ashwiny said here on the sidelines of the recently concluded 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
"(We projected) Women as heroes as early as 1911... There were so many female (oriented) films and then came male (oriented) films... So it (female-oriented films) died down, but again it has come back."
Ashwiny pointed out how Indian history itself is full of strong women.
"We had women heroes in history, a woman prime minister and so many women who have been an important part of generations. But we have never talked about it. If women were not so important, we would not have sects where women take care of family... It was always there. But somewhere it got subdued, and now is coming back again and coming back for good."
She has a suggestion. "We need to encourage more men to empower women than more women empowering women. It has to start with them. It has to start with me telling my son not to bully his sister."
Ashwiny is married to Dangal maker Nitesh Tiwari, with whom she shares her twins. She was a part of the advertisement industry for long and stepped into filmdom as a director with short film What's for Breakfast, which won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2012.
She made her feature film debut with the Nil Battey Sannata in 2015 and got appreciated for her vision of the movie, which is a take on the current education system of India. She proved her mettle yet again with Bareilly Ki Barfi this year as it narrated the story of a small town girl with a modern outlook.
Talking about the presence of strong female characters, she said: "When I create a story, I don't think that I want to create a strong female character. It is what the audience take out from the story. I feel that whenever we are telling a story, a character should inspire and attract the audience in some way.
"Why do we remember characters from golden films? Because they created an impact like the way Rekha danced and the persona of Amitabh Bachchan... You never remember an actor, but a character.
"My wish and endeavor with every film I do are to make people remember characters more than the story."
At the moment, she is excited to helm a movie based on kabaddi. She is currently writing and developing the script with Fox Star Studios' creative team.
"The film will go on floors next year," she said, adding that she can't talk about it further.