In the mind of a cross dresser

Sundar, a Marathi short film by Rohan Kanawade on a man who loves to cross-dress, is seeking crowd-funding through a campaign on Wishberry

Cross-dressers routinely face verbal harassment and thrashing. At the root of this unease for people who are different is a narrow perception of beauty and preconceived notions of how people of a certain gender should dress. Seeking to address this issue is Sundar — a short film in Marathi, on the challenges faced by Jayu, a 27-year-old man (played by Nishant Roy Bombarde) who likes to cross-dress.

Film Sundar

Rohan Kanawade, its scriptwriter, editor and director, is trying to raise funds for the movie through a campaign on Wishberry. The campaign has raised '38,000 so far; the goal is to reach '3 lakhs, and there are 15 days to go. Donations start from '500 onwards.

Film Sundar

Kanawade, also a freelance interior designer, shares, “In India, cross-dressing is considered weird. Most times, such people live closeted lives. Society needs to understand that beauty is not only in the eyes of the beholder, but it is when you feel beautiful from inside.”

Film Sundar

Set in a Mumbai chawl, the film depicts an incident that takes place on the last day of Navratri. Jayu wants to play dandiya but is helpless as his mother has instructed him not to step out. The previous year, he had worn a sari and played dandiya much to the consternation of the neighborhood. As the story unfolds, Shraddha, a little girl from the same neighborhood who admired his look, approaches Jayu and requests him to help her dress up, so that she can look beautiful like him.

Film Sundar

Kanawade reveals that a real person who lived near his home was inspiration for Jayu: “I saw him every year at Navratri for one night. He was feminine in his gait and dance. Men would pick on him; boys made him dance forcefully or touched him inappropriately. It got worse when he wore a sari in a fancy dress competition, after which I never saw him again.”

Rohan Kanawade
Rohan Kanawade

The filmmaker wondered why people who mocked him never noticed his grace and dancing skills: “Why did they not think that he had a heart? Why did they not let him have his moment like the rest? Their actions push such people further into the closet,” he observes.

Kanawade is disappointed that while people invest in commercial films lacking a moral stance, films on issues faced by the LGBTQI community are ignored, “Most queer-themed Indian short films are made by independent queer filmmakers with small budgets resulting in poor production values. My previous short, Ektya Bhinti, had a small budget yet it won an award at Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival (MIQFF), 2013.”

Since the campaign launch, Kanawade’s friends have come forward to help, as well as cross-dressers who could identify with Jayu’s plight. Shooting will commence on September 27, during Navratri.

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