Bollywood is trying its best to evolve and adapt the changing social status quo. However, while many films and even television shows in the past have fomented homophobia and engender stigma against the transgender community by reducing them to unrealistic stereotypes, today Indian cinema doesn’t shy away from showcasing people of the LGBTQIA+ community without any bias.
A case in point is Indian actor Manoj Bajpai starrer film Aligarh, which a true story about a gay professor in Aligarh. Another more recent example is Kukoo – a fictional character from the recently released Netflix show Sacred Games, played by actress Kubra Sait. The character is shown to be a transgender woman whose “magic” helps Ganesh Gaitonde (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) rise as a gangster. Both critics and the masses love the character.
Another short film titled Others sees the actor Shashank Arora play a transgender who aspires to become a boxer in Haryana. Similarly, last year a Hindi film Hansaek Sanyog was released in Raipur, which addressed the concerns of being a third gender. It was the first transgender based movie that raised issues of the people belonging to this community, who are often neglected by the society.
Transgender artists resist playing the part
On one side the film industry has become more mature in its outlook, but sadly on the other, transgender actors are still a bit reluctant to play themselves on screen.
When a fan asked filmmaker Anurag Kashyap about why he didn’t cast a transgender to play the role of ‘Kukoo’, he tweeted – “Transgender actors don’t like to play transgender people on screen.” According to him, he did audition artists from the community for the role but most of them wanted to play a role of a born female and not a transgender.
While Kashyap feels that transgender actors are not very keen to represent their community on screen, Bobby Darling, a transgender Bollywood actress, has been quite comfortable in playing herself on screen. As a message to her community she urges transgender people to not be wary of cinema and follow the policy of ‘beggars can’t be choosers’, just like she has been doing in her career, she says.
“I want to tell them (transgender community) to keep working hard and be themselves. Never get discouraged or affected with any negative reaction. It is their life and you should take charge of it. Life is too unpredictable for any delays in work,” she tells the Media India Group.
Love from around the world
Not just Bollywood, but other parts of the world are also gradually accepting the community.
Pakistani television series Coke Studio’s latest season features two transgender singers Naghma and Lucky, along with well-known musicians Abida Parveen, Momina Mustehsan, Ali Azmat, Gul Panra and Jawad Ahmad.
Moving towards Hollywood, Nicole Maines – a transgender activist, will be playing the first transgender superhero to be featured on a CW/Warner Bros television show Supergirl. She has touched the lives of many people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community and is now set to become an on-screen hero.