Over the years, the portrayal of the third gender in Hindi cinema has found itself under the scanner. While there has been a steady display of male characters with effeminate traits — usually for comic effect — in Hindi movies, certain films have, however, stayed true to reality. Ravi Kissen’s androgynous act in the upcoming Bullet Raja and Mahesh Manjrekar’s similar role in Rajjo are merry additions to the list.
Here’s taking a look at some of the memorable ‘ardhanarishwar’ roles from this particular stream…
Film: Tamanna (1997)
Portrayal: Apparently based on a real-life character, in this Mahesh Bhatt film, Rawal plays a critically acclaimed role of a eunuch who happens to be the child of a yesteryear Bollywood actress. The story was based in the bylanes of Mahim.
Film: Sadak (1991)
Portrayal: Bagging several awards for his villainous act, Amrapurkar played a notorious eunuch who doubles as a heinous pimp. His sari-clad brother-owner won’t let a “buy” (read: Pooja Bhatt’s character) get out of her hand without a fight.
Film: Shabnam Mausi (2005)
Portrayal: Following the life of India’s first transgender to be MLA, this film by Yogesh Bharadwaj saw Rana as a protagonist turning up in a feminine avatar (after his act in Sangharsh). Despite the novel topic, the film failed to create a buzz.
Film: Queens! Destiny of Dance (2011)
Portrayal: One of the finest actresses in the country, Biswas plays a transgender named Mukta whom her peers look up to thanks to her dancing skills. But with a younger hijra entering the group, she is left seething with jealousy and disillusionment.
Film: Raja Hindustani (1996)
Portrayal: Of the 13 films that he appeared in, almost all the characters he essayed had an inclination for music and were blatantly effeminate. Interestingly, his early films happened to star Aamir Khan and Kajraare (2010) was the last he starred in.
Film: Natrang (2011)
Portrayal: In this Marathi film, Kulkarni plays a farmer-turned-actor who is somehow willing to don an androgynous character for a roaming tamasha — despite the obvious opposition and apprehensions from people all around him.
Film: Daayra (1996)
Portrayal: In this path breaking film directed by Amol Palekar, Pandey plays a transvestite who comes in contact with a rape victim. Helming a sensitive story, he personifies human relationships that go beyond narrow identities. So far, he is the only actor to bag a National Award for Best Actress.
As opposed to actors in Bollywood, their leading contemporaries from the West appear to have experimented more with transgender roles…
Robin Williams’s character in Mrs Doubtfire (1993) effectively pretends to be a woman.
Hilary Swank won herself an Oscar award for playing Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry (1999).
Felicity Huffman earned herself a nod from the Oscars for her role of a transvestite in the indie Transamerica (2005).
Glenn Close portrays a woman pretending to be a man in the period drama Albert Nobbs (2011).