Paava Kadhaigal was Netflix’s first Tamil anthology film comprising of four stories directed by exhilarating directors, who invoked incomprehensible emotions in the audience by spotlighting the injustice faced by womanhood in India, due to gender identity, honour killing, casteism and rape culture which inflames within the phase of societal expectations bound to agonize over women.
Sudha Kongara’s Thangam (My Precious) in the anthology movie, downheartedly depicted the plight of coming out as a trans woman in the 1980s, especially in India’s rural areas. The story sets off with a trans woman Saathar who is prey to the village’s discrimination, from labelling her with cuss words to teasing her with homophobic jokes for becoming visible as the third gender.
Her family sees her transition as a shame and humiliation is the reflection of today’s society. On the contrary Saravanan, the childhood friend and thangam of hers (the word encompasses her feelings for him), the one who protects her from the village represents individuals who are accepting and welcoming of those who identified themselves as anything under the umbrella of LGBTQA+, unlike her family.
Before the British administration, the Trans community, Hijira community were considered as higher caste collectives. Whereas the British administration’s influence has led to today’s disrespect towards the trans people. In India, back in days, before any internet exposure, the first encounter with anyone belonging to the LGBTQA+ community would be a transwoman.
Often, we would have seen them during the traffic halts knocking at our car windows seeking alms or in the streets, the homophobic rouges calling them with names– Randi, faggot, chhakka, chhinal (it never got better though). Also, in general, there are a lot of myths attached to this quite funny community.
They are regarded as those individuals holding superpowers, for example, they curse or bless shows severe effects on people who receive it. And this is due to the lack of knowledge of general human biology and sex education a fact which paved the path to many misconceptions.
In the anthology, the plot shows her love and feelings for Saravanan evidently, but in return, he develops feeling for her sister Bhahira. With being heartbroken, she finds a way to root for their relationship. Later, both families learn about the relationship of Saravanan and Bhahira and the families try to kill the couples, but she gives her sister the money she had saved for her transition surgery. After helping them to elope out of the village, the family dismisses her from home.
Being homeless, a group of drunken men tries to attack her – this illustrates today’s reality of harassment, mistreatment and taking advantage of transwomen in general, the group of drunkard men attack Sathaar for sexual pleasures which results in her seeking help. The denial of the entire village from saving her leads to death of her.
The plot speaks a lot about the patriarchal society for discriminating against transgender people by victimizing them to sexual abuse and harassment. This is due to a lack of acceptance and poor knowledge about gender orientation and the spectrum. Most transwomen are forcefully pushed into sex work for survival or threaten with sex. Not long ago, in Coimbatore, a 23-year-old youth murdered a transgender activist Sangeetha for refusing sexual advances. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2020/oct/23/man-confesses-to-murder-of-coimbatore-transwoman-for-refusing-sexual-advances-arrested-2214200.html
After enduring long mistreatment from the homophobic society like ours – In 2014, the trans community received recognition as the third gender after passing several bills. But the irony is – the role of Sathaar was played by Kalidas (not accusing him, he did a great job). But they are still down seen in the movies too.
The movie ‘I’ portrayed Osma Jasmine as a fun element. The movie Vaanam’s Karpooram character is a representation of thousands of transwomen forcefully working as sex workers.
Dr Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju is India’s biggest transwoman influencer for proving to society that she is capable enough to do something big like becoming a doctor. I have been following her for a long time now. I am so inspired by her stories of life.
Coming out is beautiful because identifying yourself and living for the person who you want to be is something great. And don’t you think internet exposure has slightly made it easy for anyone to discover and explore oneself’s identity and it has helped individuals belonging to the LGBTQA+ community to form groups and be there for each other, even though still they go through a lot in the process of coming out by facing uncontrollable events from family, friends and society?