Last year, actor Jeffrey Tambor moved thousands with his speech at the Emmy’s, when he said that he hoped to be the last cisgender actor to play a transgender female. Closer to home too, this started a conversation about the representation of trans people in the film and television industry.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the lead actress for a Malayalam film opposite superstar Mammooty would be a trans woman. Now, the Telugu industry is also giving opportunities to trans people to play themselves in films.
In director Teja’s upcoming Nene Raju Nene Mantri that stars Rana Daggubati and Kajal Aggarwal, transgender rights activist from the city, Chandramukhi, has been given a respectable role of an MLA. “It is my first film and I thought people would cringe at me, but to my surprise, everyone was so friendly,” she gleams, as she explains how she bagged the role.
“Teja sir wanted to cast a genuine trans person. The first time I met him, he told me that he auditioned a lot of people — men just dressed up as women — but when he saw that I was interested, he asked if I knew how to act. I told him that I had anchored a show as a political analyst and learnt Bharatanatyam for 12 years. I also went to film school for a year.”
Recalling the first day of the shoot, she says, “The first act that I had to do was to cry. To bring out the emotion, I thought about the time my parents threw me out of the house.”
However, the character description didn’t explicitly say that she was playing a trans woman. “I was just one among the other MLAs and it so happens that I am a trans woman. In fact, it was me who suggested that my introduction should be done with the signature clap because that’s when people recognise us.”
Chandramukhi says it is important for directors to be educated about the community if they want to cast a trans person. “I was once called for a very small role in a film. The director needed trans people, and his manager asked us to come. When the director saw us, he exclaimed, ‘What is this? I asked you to get me 50-50 candidates and you got me women!’ Many people who want to cast trans people still want them to look like men, while a lot of us look like women,” she says
About contributing to her community, Chandramukhi says, “It was my dream to do something for the community, I was able to live the dream for a small while in the film.”...