Our Family, a 56-minute Tamil (with English subtitles) documentary, written and directed by K P Jayasankar and Anjali Monteiro, premiers at a Vikalp screening this Friday at Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan. It elucidates what it means to free oneself of the social construct of being male and explores life beyond a hetero-normative family.
Set in Tamil Nadu, the film brings together excerpts from Nirvanam, (Liberation) a one-person performance, by Pritham K Chakravarthy and a family of three generations of trans-gendered females—Aasha, Seetha and Dhana, who are bound together by ties of adoption. We see them cutting a birthday cake, visiting the temple, playing seven stones and talking about their dreams.
Aasha Bharathi, is the president of the Tamil Nadu Aravanigal Association, Chennai. Seetha, her adopted daughter, lives with her male partner Selvam, in Coimbatore. Dhana, the youngest and the most starry-eyed, is Seetha’s adopted daughter, who shuttles between her adopted and natal families. “The local residents have accepted Seetha as one of them. We had a good rapport with them, so when we shot in public spaces there were no issues,” says Jayasankar, who along with Montero has made 30-odd documentaries that are “off the beaten track”.
“We decided to make the film when we met Aasha through Pritham, who is our friend. We wanted to do it as a collaborative project, not one that dictated terms to them,” says Montero.
The film juxtaposes the ‘normality’ of their existence with the dark and powerful narrative by Pritham, a well-known dramatist in Tamil Nadu. Nirvanam quotes an incident from the Mahabharat where Lord Krishna marries and sacrifices an Aravani on the eve of the battle with the Kauravas. This ensures the Pandavas’ success on the battlefield: a symbol of the violence and exploitation faced by Aravanis.
“The film, is funded by TISS and made on a shoestring budget ,” says Montero. The distribution of the film, costing Rs 400, would be done through NGOs and narrowcast avenues.