Author: Janani Sampath
They have been treated as comic relief and have been the topic of sneers and giggles. Indian movies have often ridiculed the transgender community, imitating mannerisms and reducing them to sidetracks. However, here is one movie Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Vaani Kapoor that has chosen to tread an unexplored terrain—of mainstreaming the community. The Hindi flick helmed by Abhishek Kapoor is an off-beat love story of a bodybuilder (Khurrana) who falls in love with a Zumba instructor (Vaani Kapoor), unaware that the woman he loves is a transwoman.
The movie has already generated rave reviews from the critics, with its achievement in plotting a story that brings the marginalized transgender community to the fore in a breezy romance. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui has taken a bold move to make the transperson the protagonist and challenge the archetypal representation of particular groups in society.
While cinema often mirrors society, the medium also has the onus of shaping perceptions. And movies like Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui have a role in making societies progressive.
However, one pertinent question remains— why wasn’t a transwoman chosen to play the role instead of a female artist? Probably because movies still bank on lead actors to draw audiences to the theatres, and the makers would have decided to take the calculated risk of broaching a taboo topic with familiar faces.
A dramatic change
The negative portrayal of trans people has presented fearful villains like Maharani played by Sadashiv Amrapurkar in Sadak. Or, cross-dressing murderers like the one played by Ashutosh Rana in Sangharsh. While trans people have been shown as abnormal, cisgender men masquerading as women in lacy gowns and auburn wigs have been presented as do-gooders and adorable. Like Rishi Kapoor in Rafoo Chakkar, Amitabh Bachchan in Laawaris, and Govinda in Aunty No 1, to name a few.
The South has had its share of comedy tracks that have turned to the community just for laughs and crude one-liners but there has been a visible change in recent times. A couple of years ago, Tamil cinema saw Super Deluxe starring Vijay Sethupathi playing a transwoman in the movie comprising four interwoven stories. Widely acclaimed for its novel storytelling and a paradigm shift, the film and its reception signal that cinema goers have matured. Similarly, around the same time, Malayalam flick Njan Mary Kutti (2018) had Jayasuriya in the titular role, playing a trans man nursing ambitions of joining the police force.
With societies changing and turning inclusive by being conscious about human rights and dignity, movies play a significant role in pushing narratives. One can hope more movies join the league, taking a cue from Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui or Super Deluxe.