New Delhi, 21 Jun 2022 14:05 IST
Surbhi Dewan and SA Hanan’s feature documentary sensitively captures the hardships, beauty and resilience of a beleaguered group.
"When will my issues settle," sings Rehana dolefully, at once capturing the long struggle faced by people from the transgender community in Kashmir.
Directed by Surbhi Dewan and SA Hanan, the feature documentary Trans Kashmir brings to the fore their hardships, beauty and immense resilience with a lot of heart.
The documentary delves into the lives of its protagonists — Reshma, Babloo, Shabnum and Sultan, artists and performers trying to go about their lives while facing intense discrimination from a society that predominantly fails to accept them.
Traditionally, transgenders were accorded a certain status as they were employed in palaces and royal courts. In time, they became singers and performers, eventually facing acute backlash at the hands of the British. Relegated to the margins, they were forced to fend for themselves, finding a suitable profession as matchmakers. However, the digital turn has threatened that source of livelihood as well.
Trans Kashmir highlights the lives of transgenders in Kashmir, emphasizing how their fight for recognition, identity and rights is all the more difficult in a region racked with political turmoil.
At the outset, it may seem like Kashmir is the captivating and serene backdrop for the unfolding of the film but we soon realize that the predicament of transgenders in the Union territory is quite different as their struggle for employment is exacerbated by the political uncertainty and the movement for rights in the region.
As they appeal to the government for recognition and support, one person says, “We are vagabonds…not settled”, while reiterating their identity as Kashmiris.
Dewan and Hanan outline the predicament of the protagonists with sensitivity, weaving in the crucial work being done by Sonzal Welfare Trust, working in the area of gender welfare and community development. Through the evocative use of music and poetry, Trans Kashmir foregrounds how the arts have been embraced by transgenders, interweaving their Kashmiri identity within it. We learn about the hopes and dreams of these immensely talented artists who are denied their due recognition.
The use of animation, in the beginning, is clever, as it enables them to speak without being seen, which in turn reflects on their existence at the margins.
The film was screened as part of the recently concluded 13th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival.