'They are ridiculed, stigmatised all the time'
29-year-old British filmmaker Laila Khan was in Pune for the screening of her first film 'Before I Was Me', which is based on the life of a man who suffers from Gender Dysphoria. She spoke to MiD DAY about her film and issues that the LGBT community faces in countries like UK and India. The short film will also be screened at the Film and Television Institute of India soon
Tell us more about ‘Before I Was Me’. What sort of research went into it?
This is my first short film. I have extensively shot it in the UK for three months. I wanted to touch upon some serous and sensitive topic. I have been reading about the transgender persons, and their day-to-day struggle just to find acceptance in the world. All through this, they are ridiculed, stigmatised all the time for no good reason. They have to fight to live in harmony, and it’s difficult to find a good job. Many even attempt suicide. I was moved by such stories.
Yes, I did in-depth research for about one year before starting the shoot. Though my film is not based on any real person, it is influenced by a real struggle. It was difficult for me to convince my lead actor Darren Ruston to play the protagonist, as he felt he did not fit the bill. But our team’s dedication has paid off. Like some viewers, I also think that I should have showed the aftermath of Charlie’s life, after he goes through the sex reassignment surgery. But I have kept a few things incomplete on purpose. I have screened this film in Cannes International Film Festival, Lebanon-American University, Middle East and Jordan. The topic, though sensitive, was very well received by the audience. I am also planning some screenings in India soon.
Are you aware of the latest judgment by the Supreme Court of India on gay rights?
Yes, while arriving here in the morning, I was told about the verdict. This is really sad. LGBT people should be treated as equals and allowed to live their lives on their own terms. They should not be derided.
Are the societal adversities/conditions same for the LGBTs in UK and India?
It actually varies from country to country and culture to culture. Indian culture is different from UK culture. In the UK they get more freedom than here. While addressing the issue of sex reassignment surgery and understanding the mindset of the community, I think that the outlook towards them should change. There are people who undergo this surgery, but find it difficult to cope with life later. Even if they change their physical appearance in search of acceptance, they are not clear in their minds. They still struggle for their true individuality. The whole identity crisis lies there, which needs to be understood and accepted by society.