For decades, members of the transgender community have been mostly misrepresented in Indian films, where they are usually portrayed as lustful, undignified, annoying and vicious characters. However, it seems that things are changing with time now. The teaser of the upcoming film Njan Marykutty starring Jayasurya was released on March 10 which shows the actor in a never seen avatar. The teaser has already caught everyone’s attention where we see a masculine looking Jayasurya imagining himself in short hair, cleanly-shaven look wearing lipstick, saree and a broad smile. “I’m happy that everyone liked Njan Marykutty teaser. I also hope you guys will like the film too,” the star wrote on his Facebook page on the YouTube.
This is probably for the first time, a star has chosen to tell the story of a member of the transgender community, in a different way. In past years, some of leading actors have essayed a transgender role in Indian films. But most of them are character artists playing lead roles, or a popular star portraying scary characters.
Take an example of Tamil cinema, where some of the actors broke the norm by playing an effeminate character on screen. Despite that, over the years, Tamil cinema has been severely scrutinised for the problematic portrayal of transgenders. In Iru Mugan (2016), Chiyaan Vikram played the role of a transgender antagonist called Love. In director Ameer's gangster film Aadhi Bhagavan (2013), Jayam Ravi essayed the role of a transgender Bhagavan. However, none of these characters is explicitly shown as a transgender. Instead, they tend to play a male character who walks and talks like a woman.
In the 2011 horror film Muni 2: Kanchana, Sarathkumar played a transgender Kanchana, who is disowned by her parents. However, this was an exception in a way as Kanchana showed the marginalised community in a positive light.
Bollywood too is not far behind in this list. In 1991 movie Sadak, Sadashiv Amrapurkar appeared as a eunuch brothel madam Maharani for which he even received the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Negative Role.
On the other hand, Paresh Rawal was critically praised for his role as a eunuch in the movie Tamanna. Paresh Rawal also said "My intention was to disabuse the impression that eunuchs are not caricatures. I wanted to give them a human face and dignity." Ashutosh Rana too played the title role in 2005 movie Shabnam Mausi which was based on a real-life character. Shabnam Mausi was the first ‘Hijra’ to be elected to public office.
Hopefully, Mollywood is showing a new light on this history. Speaking about his preparations for the role in Njan Marykutty, Jayasurya has been quoted by Sify.com as saying, “I can use removable earrings during shooting but it won’t look original and so I have decided to pierce my ears. There is a little pain for sure but what Marykutty has gone through is much more.”Njan Marykutty is helmed by Ranjith Sankar, who has done several films with Jayasurya in the past. Njan Marykutty is being bankrolled by the Dreams and Beyond banner.