Celina Jaitley and Shree Ghatak, Bollywood's first transgender actor, on why their new film is going to be a game changer.
Celina Jaitley, Ram Kamal Jha and Shree Ghatak
I don't think about my gender anymore. There was a time when I was trapped, but now I am free," says Shree Ghatak (Muhury), who has become Bollywood's first transgender actor after bagging a role as Chapala in Ram Kamal Mukherjee's Season's Greetings. The movie, which is slated for an October release, also stars Celina Jaitley and Lillette Dubey, and tells the story about a mother and daughter. It is dedicated to auteur Rituparno Ghosh, who made films like Titli, Dahan, Chokher Bali, Raincoat and Antarmahal, and will give a glimpse of all his major works, ideology and passion for music.
When Ghatak got this role, she was hesitant about taking it up, because she didn't want to play another stereotype. She runs the Troyee Foundation, which works for poor women, street children and the LGBTQi community. In 2017, she married her childhood friend Sanjay Muhury, paving the way for many couples like them. "I always wanted myself to be counted among other common people. I never wanted to be pigeon-holed into any category. My soul had always been of a girl, so I didn't think of myself as transgender. Then, I got married, and my husband told me that I should embrace the fact that I am an inspiration. Most transgenders get accepted as prostitutes and beggars, but my journey shows them the light."
Ghatak found a friend in Jaitley, who makes a comeback with Season's Greetings, and has always been a staunch supporter of LGBTQi rights. She was the ambassador of the Kashish Film Festival from its inception till 2016, has worked closely with NGOs like the Humsafar Trust, and has often rued the fact that not many actors support the cause. "When Ram wanted to cast Chapala, no one was willing to play a transgender, and we were all frustrated. His decision to cast Ghatak is groundbreaking. She will open the gates for many aspiring trans actors."
Ghatak adds, "I adore Celina for standing by the cause and making me feel comfortable at the shoot." Jaitley hopes that the storyline inspires conversations among people, specifically in "our newly liberated democratic rainbow society", where queer women definitely need their stories to be given their due.
"The movie focuses on the need for in-depth understanding of what being a woman from the LGBTQi community truly means in a country like India. In a subtle way, it encourages both legal reforms and public education to counter homophobia and transphobia. I am convinced that the best way to have this difficult conversation is through a medium most relatable to people, and that for me is cinema," she says. Of her own character, Romita, she says many people will identify with her, and will know that they have to have "uncomfortable" conversations at home, and beyond. "I have been involved with the LGBTQi cause for 18 years, so I needed to do this movie. I also recently lost my mom, and the experience that I shared with Lilette who played my mother, was emotional. I just hope that our film, like all others by Rituparnoda, connects with people."
Ask Ghatak, who is going to be setting yet another example with this film, what she wants people to take away from the film, and she simply says, "People should know that there are many shades inside all of us, and we need to accept all of them."
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