Life is not a bed of roses for those who do not conform to traditional gender norms in a society that celebrates heteronormativity. We hear stories of discrimination, ostracization, and violence against the LGBTQIA+ community every day. As allies, we can empathize with the community but can never truly grasp the magnitude of the heart-wrenching reality of those who refuse to abide by societal standards of gender. With each passing day, it is becoming increasingly important to create a gender-sensitized society.
Bhopal-based Ektara Collective has definitely taken a step forward in that direction with its latest independent film, Ek Jagah Apni (2022), which translates to ‘A Place of our Own’. The collective follows a socialist approach to filmmaking, where its features and films are inspired by the lived experiences of its members, with the objective of recreating real-life stories; turning them into cinematic forms of truth.
Ek Jagah Apni follows the journey of two trans women who are looking for an apartment to share in Bhopal. As the film progresses, the viewers realize that it is not just their search for a physical space of bricks and cement that they want to call their own, but a broader philosophical and political search to find a space in mainstream society, where they feel accepted and secure.
The performances by Muskan and Manisha Soni, the two protagonists of the film, shine brightly with authenticity and meaningfulness. They are not trained acting professionals but trans women who have experienced the crisis portrayed on-screen, in real life. Drawing from their own traumatic and transphobic lived experiences, they are able to bring forth a level of emotional depth and veracity that many trained actors could not have achieved. Over the years, we have seen straight actors play trans characters onscreen. One recent example would be Eddie Redmayne playing a transgender woman in The Danish Girl (2015). What are the ethics in terms of representation and authenticity when it comes to casting is a debate for another day. However, it is beyond a doubt that the actors in Ek Jagah Apni have aptly used the cinematic canvas to paint the truth of their everyday struggles in terms of trying to survive and even thrive in traditional Indian society.
Ektara Collective, when asked about the authnticity of the film
Food and shelter are the two most important human needs. Renting a house to a trans person becomes more about the landlord’s prejudices and less about economical prerequisites. The immense struggle within the trans community to find proper housing is something that has not been adequately represented in Indian cinemas before. As Neeraj Churi rightly pointed out, it is a struggle not just restricted to Indian society but a universal struggle. That is probably one of the major reasons why the film has been such a huge success even overseas. After its North American premiere’s success at the South by Southwest film festival, Ek Jagah Apni is all set to screen in the UK at the BFI Flare Festival.
Watch the film's trailer below.