'Yeh film TV walon ne banayi hai?'

Updated: Aug 04, 2019, 08:44 IST | ekta mohta

Star couple Ashish and Archana Sharma have bared their souls and emptied their pockets into the making of Khejdi, a movie about a transwoman that no one believes was made by television talent

'Yeh film TV walon ne banayi hai?'
Ashish and Archana Sharma. Pic /Sneha Kharabe

It's quite likely that actor Ashish Sharma, 34, the face and heartbeat of shows such as Gunahon Ka Devta, Chandragupta Maurya, Rang Rasiya and Siya Ke Ram, doesn't fit into the world of television. Instead, he seems at ease in roles such as Khejdi, an unreleased film he has co-written and produced with his wife, Archana Taide Sharma. The film follows a transwoman in rural Rajasthan, whose father keeps her locked in a room because he's scared of losing her. "Even today, in villages, if an intersex child is born, they give them away to the community," says Ashish. "All the transgenders on the street behave in a particular, similar way. Why? Are they born doing that? They are conditioned to behave like that because they have only two occupations: begging and prostitution. But, what if they were educated? Given an upbringing like us? What if the parents didn't give them away? That's what the film talks about." Despite being a popular actor, Ashish underwent three months of acting and Kathak workshops for the role. "I had to get rid of my muscularity. I had to prepare my muscle memory and erase 30 years of my life. I practised it so much, and lived it so much in my head, that I started sleeping like [a woman]. Archana started freaking out. But, it began to happen subconsciously."

Khejdi premiered at Kashish Film Festival

Adapted from a short story titled Sanjha by Kiran Singh, it took 2.5 years to turn it into a film script. "He's an excellent co-writer," says Archana, the writer among the two. "It's very important, first of all, to be on the same page. Your reason has to be correct, your intention has to be pure. We were trying to tell a story, which we hoped would touch somebody's heart and make an impact." Although, Ashish says, "I think more than writing the film, it was about getting the whole
team together, who shared the same vision. Otherwise, it would never translate to the screen. Thankfully, I knew the people I wished to take along on this project from my journey in television. They also wanted to break out of the boundaries that television comes with." Which is why, this small-budget indie has been wholly shaped by television veterans. "My director and DoP gave up television for two months," continues Ashish. "If they are leaving a show, it means they are forfeiting at least '1-2cr, which was the budget of the whole film. I was offered another show and an insane amount of money. I said no because I didn't want to do it. Nobody got paid for Khejdi because we made it on a shoestring budget."

The effort has paid off in bits and pieces. Two weeks ago, JKN Global, run by transgender CEO Jakkaphong Anne Jakrajutatip, released the film in Thailand. "We had no idea who Anne was," says Archana. "We screened the film for them, and she said later, 'Do you know I'm a transwoman?' She was trapped in a man's body for 45 years, and wasn't able to do anything about it because of societal pressure. So, she could connect with the film. That's why we had the Thai release before India." While an India release is unlikely, a screening held for film insiders did take them by surprise. Ashish says, "They asked us, 'Yeh film TV walon ne banayi hai?' I understand there's a perception towards television and I wouldn't say it's completely wrong. But then, Bollywood's top three film directors have come from television: Imtiaz [Ali], Anurag Basu and Anurag Kashyap. Shah Rukh Khan and Sushant [Singh Rajput] come from television. People who are in television are doing what the medium demands. We cannot judge their capability [based on that]."

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