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Sushmita Sen intense as a transgender champion


Hindi (Jio Cinemas)

Director: Ravi Jadhav

Cast: Sushmita Sen, Krutika Deo, Ankur Bhatia, Aishwarya Narkar

A biopic of the transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant — India’s first petitioner for transgender rights in the Supreme Court — was long overdue.  

Gauri, born as Ganesh in Pune, wants to be a mother when she grows up. She battles identity issues in a conservative family. The film details the many struggles and the important turning points in her life. When her mother dies and her sister gets married shortly after, she is left with no one but her father. Though she is still a little boy, she identifies as a girl, much to the dismay of her father. 

Her story progresses through flashbacks, as she narrates the incidents that shaped her life, to a journalist. 

In one scene, her father is overjoyed when he notices hair growing on her chin. Details like this highlight the kind of desperate society we live in. 

It is admirable how Sushmita Sen has absorbed the personality of such a complex character. Her powerful portrayal leaves the audience spellbound. However, the question remains: Why aren’t transgender actors playing these roles? 

The film is titled ‘Taali’ which translates to “claps”. Transgenders in India are known for their distinct clap — which conveys their presence. Gauri in a powerful dialogue says, “main taali nahi bajaungi, bajwaungi,” which translates to, “I will not clap, I’ll wait for an applause.”

She is assertive of her identity from a very young age and evolves into a strong transwoman who dares to petition for transgender rights. Her dream of wanting to be a mother when she grows up is fulfilled when she gains custody of a four-year-old after the child’s birth mother, a sex worker, succumbs to AIDS. 

Although the film’s narrative is strong and powerful, the treatment is lacklustre. The director, Ravi Jadhav has been addressing pertinent issues in his films — importance of sex education, stories of nude models, children involved in criminal activities, among others. This biopic holds as much importance. It is a must watch. 

(Published 19 August 2023, 04:15 IST)

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