Charu Khurana took on the film industry and won (photo: Indian Express)
It is appalling that women were banned from being employed as make-up artists in Bollywood for the past 59 years; it is even more appalling that one woman’s 5-year battle to end this discrimination took her all the way to the Supreme Court. According to the Indian Express, the country's top court has now ruled that the ban is gender biased and should end.
India's $2-billion film industry is the largest in world by ticket sales. Trade analysts say the Hindi-language industry employs more than 250,000 people, most of them contract workers.
While women work in most areas, including as technicians and hairdressers, the industry has so far not allowed women to work as make-up artists. Trade unions say this was to ensure men are not deprived of work. The Cine Costume Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association (CCMAA), which was set up in 1955, had a bylaw that specifically barred women from joining as make-up artists.
But this frustrated make-up artist Charu Khurana and other qualified female artists whose applications for make-up artist identification cards were rejected by the CCMAA because they are women.
In 2009, when Khurana was working on the Tamil film Unnaipol Oruvan the CCMAA raided the film’s sets. The association members reportedly slapped a fine of Rs. 25,000 ($500) on her. She was forced to quit the film, but decided to take on the association and get the archaic rule scrapped.
Khurana, along with some other female make-up artists, approached the National Commission for Women which helped them file a petition in the Supreme Court in 2013. They have now won their case, with a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruling on Monday that it would not permit this type of discrimination.
"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," the Indian Express quoted Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit as saying.
"You better delete this clause on your own. Remove this immediately. We are in 2014, not in 1935. Such things cannot continue even for a day," the judges told the CCMAA, giving the association time till November 10 to remove the clause.
While this case involves the Mumbai-based Hindi and English-language film industry known as Bollywood, the court said that it would take action against regional language film industries – based in Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad – that also bar women make-up artists.
Khurana’s colleagues – both men and women – have welcomed the court’s stand. But for her it has been a lonely battle, according to the Indian Express, with not many willing to take on the association.
“The committee was vindictive after I dragged them to court. They would flex their muscles and make sure I didn’t get films – between 2012 and 2013, I lost out on projects in the south, including the Telugu period film Rudrama Devi,” Khurana said.
“Who can assure me the same will not happen after the Supreme Court passes the order on Monday (November 10)?” she asked.