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Assam’s Transgender Community Reacts To Film ‘Outcast’ With Rage

  • IWB Post
  •  March 14, 2019

‘Outcast’, a 90-minute film portraying the story of Assam’s transgender community through the voice of a 16-year-old who leaves his village to join a gharana has raged the community.

According to the filmmakers, the film tells the story of the up-until-now-silent narrative of the 11,000 members of the transgender community in Assam. However, AATA – All Assam Transgender Association who describes itself as “a helping hand to maintain the dignity, prestige, and respect of the TGs of Northeast India” says that “the name of the film irks” them.

“In the recent past, our community has been accepted in various walks of public life. We were being neglected before but are now slowly getting acceptance. It is extremely wrong to say we are ‘outcasts’. We have had a long history of fighting for our existence, this film nullifies the effort of all these years,” shared transgender activist and founder of AATA, Swati Bidhan Barua who is also Assam’s and India’s third transgender judge.

Produced by Milin Dutta, a transgender man based in the US, and directed by Mumbai-based filmmaker Prakash Deka, the film is set to feature in the festival circuits this May. It was filmed in Nalbari, Guwahati, and Tezpur with a primary cast of six actors. Talking about a member of the LGBTQ community playing a role in the film, Dutta said, “For the protagonist’s role, we wanted to have someone from the hijra community, but it did not work out. But, Benjamin Daimary, who ultimately played the role, was perfect. As a member of the LGBTQ community, Benjamin later said that this whole process of being involved in the film was an empowering experience for him on a personal level.”

Apart from the title of the film, the community has also expressed its concern over the poster of the film which represents Daimary with heavy makeup and jewellery. “The poster is offensive too. They have portrayed a gay man with heavy makeup and wearing jewellery — this stereotypes the notion how a transgender should look,” said Barua. “They have hurt the feelings and emotions of the entire community.”

However, according to the filmmakers, the intention was not to hurt the sentiments of the community, rather it was to give them visibility. “The hijra community in Assam is practically invisible. Hijras are perceived to be a ‘North Indian’ export. In fact, very few know about the indigenous transgender community of Assam— the lives they lead, the discrimination they face, the gharanas they stay in, the struggle before they leave their homes to join the gharanas,” shared Dutta.

The gharanas are a household where transgender women live together. They are a recent development in the state of Assam unlike in the rest of the country. Over the last two decades, many gharanas have been set up in the state such as Tezpur, Tinsukia, Nalabari, Karbi Anglong, and Guwahati.

Though AATA’s Barau appreciates the theme adopted by the film, she plans to take up the issue with the Central Board of Film Certification. “I appreciate that such a sensitive theme was chosen but the name of the film irks us,” she added.

H/T: The Indian Express 

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