Documentary film makers descend on Koovagam festival

Main purpose is to document the Annual Koovagam festival, which draws Hijras
Villupuram: It is the first time that Gokul Prakash, a postgraduate Journalism student of Madras University, is visiting the non-descript village of Koovagam, situated in Ullundurpet taluk of Villupuram district. The prime purpose of his visit is to document the Annual Koovagam festival, which draws thousands of Hijras or transgender community from across the country.“There are hordes of people thronging the place and not everyone is here to worship the deity (Aravan) at the Koothandavar temple. Having said that, to see countless transgenders at this place for what theyconsider to be their main festival is unique and intriguing,” he said.
Gokul is part of a thirty member student delegation, all from Madras University, who has been camping at Koovagam for the past couple of days for their project. Their project involves documenting what isoften called as the largest gathering of transgenders in the country. However, the students of Madras University are not alone in their pursuit, for they are joined by several media personnel, freelancers and budding filmmakers.
S. Ajay, a freelancer based in Chennai, was elated when a foreigner interested in documenting the festival sought his assistance. “I have been here for the past two days and I feel the vibrancy of this place makes for such a good video-documentary. Though I have heard about the festival, one should be here to actually get a real account,” he said.
Sahill Jaisingh, from Haryana, is a fledgling filmmaker who had initially thought of making a short film on transgenders and their state of being in today’s society.
“While researching, I came across this festival and I was very fascinated about this unusual gathering. Living in the society and still being neglected is a sad thing, these people are also human beings and should be heard and given their due rights,” he said.
The next thing he did was to post a request for a documentary crew on Facebook. He immediately got onboard eight similar minded people from various parts of the country. “The beauty is that I didn’t know anyone before,
but have joined hands because of our common interest in trying to raise awareness of the lives these transgender people live,”
he said.
Sidhanshu Pandita, from Kashmir, was excited ever since Sahill pitched forth the entire plan and was quick to recognise an attitudinal shift in people in southern regions as compared to those who reside in North India. “Over there the blessings and good wishes of Hijras are solicited for every happy occasion, be it marriage, birth ceremony etc. But here in the southern region, I feel they are
totally shunned and worse, treated as outcasts. Maybe, this is due to north Indians being more versed with the tales of Mahabharata and characters like Shikhandi and Mohini,” he said.
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