Four years ago, when India’s census added an option for a third gender/an “other” category, the results revealed that almost 5,00,000 people of those surveyed identified as transgender. While activists estimate the real count to be 6 or 7 times higher, this data finally allowed the Indian government to establish the legal existence of this community – one that has been deeply stigmatised, ostracised and subjected to horrific violence throughout the history of India. Legal victories are undoubtedly important. They forge the path to come and provide tangible milestones, but, in a way, they also fall short. Legal progress is incomplete without a subsequent cultural and social shift. Constitutional rights hold little value if your neighbourhood continues to discriminate against you.
Inclusive workplaces are a dream, one that we’re still struggling to achieve. But while policies can be adopted to make some work environments more inclusive, there are certain industries that just don’t function like a typical corporate workplace. The film industry has always been a rather secluded one. It’s inaccessible to most, especially India’s transgender community who, despite finding representation on screen, doesn’t get the same opportunities in real life. Recently, Faraz Arif Ansari, the director of Sisak, spoke to Homegrown about the almost-insurmountable challenges he was facing while trying to cast an older transgender woman for his first feature film. After spending six months looking for someone who’d fit the bill, he realised the crucial gap and lack of support system when it comes to on-screen representation of marginalised communities. “The trans community, in spite of having the will, has never had an opportunity to find access to hone their skills because we’ve never allowed them to consider acting as a profession,” he told Homegrown. Perhaps that one eye-opening experience was all Faraz needed to do something about such a bleak reality.
In order to create avenues and mainstream platforms for India’s transgender community, Faraz and Keshav Suri are happy to announce the launch of TRANSaction - a series of free acting workshops for the Indian transgender community, in association with Keshav Suri Foundation and the LaLit Group of Hotels. Taking place over three days in two batches in the month of March, 2019, TRANSaction will focus on mentoring and skill-building of 60 participants from the transgender and LGBTQIA+ community across India. The participants will get a chance to not just learn the basics of acting in cinema, but also explore film appreciation with the Faraz himself.
“My training as an actor is hugely influenced by workshops, I believe they keep us up to date and improve our craft,” said Kalki Koechlin while speaking to Homegrown about the open Q&A session she plans on having with the Indian trans community at TRANSaction. Other speakers and guests who shall be coming on board to further enrich the experience include National Award-winning actor Kalki Koechlin, Casting Director Tess Joseph, Actor Gaurav Alugh, Film & Theatre actor Ishwak Singh, National Award-winning actor Divya Dutta and more.
The idea behind these workshops is to provide exposure to the interested members of the community and equip them with basic acting skills. Moreover, to provide them with access to individuals from the industry and help them understand the different processes involved in filmmaking. So far 30 people have already registered for the workshops through various individuals who have been working with the trans community for years. There will also be walk-in registrations on the the first day of TRANSaction.
It’s an openly acknowledged fact that the film industry is not very accepting of outsiders. And a few workshops aren’t enough to create the kind of ripples necessary to cause a long-term shift in attitude. As Faraz rightly puts it, “It will take millions of opportunities like TRANSaction. It will take thousands of individuals to keep working relentlessly towards making this a reality but someday, it will happen, if we all come together to make it come true. There’s a time for everything and our time will come –- all we need to do is never give up, never forget our own privileges and always make sure to create platforms that are all inclusive.”
When and Where:
1st, 2nd & 3rd of March at Kitty Su, The LaLiT, Delhi
8th, 9th & 10th of March, Kitty Su, The LaLiT, Mumbai.
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