Gender bender

As the society progresses and becomes more sophisticated, the concept of gender also changes, moving beyond the traditional aspects of male and female and widening its spectrum. Based on this thought, independent arts and crafts professional Jehangir Jani decided to shoot a 10-minute film, Urmi, last June.

The movie follows a transgender living in Mumbai and how she haunts public toilets and walks streets searching for love while going through violent encounters with homophobic people and authorities. Urmi, which will be screened for the first time for public viewing at the Alliance Francaise, Mumbai on April 10, has been shot in partnership with The Humsafar Trust and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). The screening is part of the Urban Aspirations in Global Cities project, an international collaborative effort in which researchers from TISS, Mumbai, Max Planck Institute (MPI), Germany and Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research (PUKAR), Mumbai, are working together to compare post-colonial mega-cities in Asia and understand how the urban community of rapidly growing mega-cities impacts the development of urban aspirations.

Explaining what prompted him to helm a film on transgenders, Jani says, “I have known people from the transgender community quite intimately. I feel that mainstream society should be more inclusive of them rather than shunning them.”

Jani, who is also a well-known painter and has earlier shot movies that have been screened at various international film festivals, feels that in the near future transgenders will play an important role in society. “Due to the presence of social networking sites, there will be a larger exchange of information and eventually transgenders will be perceived in a normal way rather than in a weird or exotic way.” 

The versatile artiste confesses that shooting the film in places where members of the transgender community usually reside such as warehouses, unused public toilets and railway stations was a tough task. “We didn’t know whether we would get the necessary permissions so we shot candidly,” he says.

Pallav Patankar, director HIV programme of Humsafar Trust, plays the protagonist, Urmi. He says that essaying the role of a transgender helped him understand the plight of the community better. “In the movie, I play the man who gradually transitions into a woman. Before acting in Urmi, I empathised with transgenders but after working in the film, I can understand and relate to their experiences.”

Quiz him what was the toughest part about acting in the film and he quips, “Walking on Marine Drive dressed as a woman was quite scary.”

When: April 10, 6:30 pm

Where: Alliance Francaise Auditorium, 40, Theosophy Hall, ground floor, Marine Lines

Contact: 22036187 

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