Ayushmann Khurrana’s latest film, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, has sparked a debate over the representation of the trans community in Bollywood. While some praised director Abhishek Kapoor’s film for its delicate, subtle way of portraying the queer community, others denounced its commercial brilliance and the fact that the trans character is played by a cisgender woman, actress Vaani Kapoor.
Ayushmann, who has made a career in taboo films and marginalized communities, opened the discussion in an interview with Film Companion’s Anupama Chopra.
He said he met the trans community when he was 13 years old. He recalled an incident when a girl identified as a man was referred to a gynecologist by his father. But the doctor avoided the girl and suggested that she seek psychological help. The girl eventually went to Bombay, underwent gender reassignment surgery and is now living a happy married life.
Ayushmann said he has gradually evolved as an individual, in terms of understanding trans and larger LGBTQ issues. “Empathy has always been there since childhood. But yes, it’s time to dump her and move on. We learn every day. “We have evolved so much as a society.”
He then said that when he was in college, he was invited by the gay community to an event. “I just said no, but there was nothing wrong with them. There was this fear of “ki mere sath kya karenge” (I was afraid of what they would do to me). I’m a straight guy. “With due respect, I can not come.”
“But I did not avoid them,” Ayushmann insisted.
Earlier, Abhishek Kapoor had spoken about not choosing a trans actor in the film. He told Indianexpress.com, “We went through a lot of roads and there was the thought of casting a trans person, but you know I find that everyone is so fascinated only by the actors. Why is everything legitimized by an actor? Why can’t a trans person write the film? Why can’t a trans person direct the film? First of all, this charm is wrong. Movies are not made by actors, they are made by filmmakers and writers. Finally, there is a representation of an individual actor, but I try to see above because there is a story to be told. You need to reach out to people in general by telling them the story and I thought that’s the best way to get that story there. “When you talk to someone, you have to speak their language.”
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