What happens when the paths of a Bollywood singer and working-class transgender man cross?
Find out at the premiere of a film set in contemporary Mumbai
A still from the film
The question of identity in India, especially for a transgender person, is riddled with complexities. Juxtapose it against the disparate landscape of Mumbai and its inequalities, and you get truth that's stranger than fiction. The film, Ajeeb Aashiq/ Strange Love, addresses these complex realities of identity, class and the politics of representation as it explores the labour behind the glamour of the entertainment industry in Mumbai. Award-winning filmmaker and visual artist Natasha Mendonca's debut feature, it is set for its debut screening in Mumbai. It premiered at the International Film Festival, Rotterdam, where the film was nominated for the Bright Future award.
Sridhar Suman 2014 protest music video, Evening in Gay Maharashtra, features in the film.
The film portrays the intersection of the lives of a Bollywood musician, played by singer-songwriter Suman Sridhar (known for her songs in films including Talaash and Shaitan), and a working-class transgender man, Khush, played by Khush Mishra. The cast also includes actor Jim Sarbh. "I was keen to draw several parallel stories including the current political state of affairs in India," shares Mendonca, who has shot the film in cinema verite style.
Sridhar, apart from playing the lead is also the co-producer and music director. While some of her lyrics and rap verses were written for the film, a few others have been performed for her real life events too. "Through acting, I imagined versions of myself into existence, and destroyed some others that I no longer wanted. This may sound schizophrenic, but in fact it was a very sane and cathartic exercise in reconnecting with myself," says Sridhar, who has a strong background in gender studies and civil rights activism, aside from the arts.
Natasha Mendonca. Pic/Sabelo Narasimhan
The duo is now looking forward to the film's UK premiere at the Tate Modern Museum, London, in July. The occasion will also present a preview of Sridhar's solo album, The Black Mamba, which takes on the degradation of the human race through globalisation, consumerism and patriarchy.
The film's screening in Mumbai will be presented by TBA in association with G5A Film Society that encourages filmmakers, film technicians and aficionados, committed to cinema beyond populist expectations. However, Mendonca feels that the overall support for independent filmmaking in India is not encouraging. "The resilience to continue making films is an intensely personal commitment. Market constraints of distributing independent cinema are terribly skewed in favour of commercial cinema," she laments. "Victorian era censorship laws have left us grappling with an infantile society, handicapped in the face of organised religion, unable to make our own rules of what adult humans can consume."
ON: June 18, 6 pm
AT: G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mahalaxmi.
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