Transgender stories in Indian cinema

Transgender stories in Indian cinema

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui

Indian cinema has a history of depicting transgender people in a negative light. They are often insulted and made fun of in movies. It’s a sensitive topic and commercial cinema has rightly being criticised for its stereotypical portrayal of the transgender community.   

Only some movies have given them the self respect they deserve. Abhishek Kapoor's ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’, starring Ayushmann Khurana and Vaani Kapoor, broke many stereotypes while handling the issue. It was refreshing to see a female actor cast in the role of a transgender. 

The movie, which is about a love story between a male fitness trainer and a transwoman Zumba instructor, might resolve its conflicts too easily but it is still a step forward in rightly representing different communities of society. 

Let’s look at five Indian films that got it right when telling stories of transgender people.      


Mahesh Bhat’s ‘Tamanna’, became the talking point of Bollywood, when it was released in 1998. Paresh Rawal, who played a transgender, was praised for his performance. The story revolves around how a transgender person adopts a girl child and raises her despite all the difficulties. It was a daring attempt from the makers since the topic was considered taboo back in those times. 

Paava Kadhaigal

‘Paava Kadhaigal’ (2020), a Tamil anthology on Netflix, has a hard-hitting story involving a transgender. ‘Thangam’, the first of the four films, tells us the story of how a Muslim transgender person (played by Kalidas Jayaram) struggles to live in a society that is troubled by religious tension and objects people like him. 

The character is called Sathar, who is born a male but wishes to be identified as a woman after sex reassignment surgery. Such is the intolerance to Sathar’s wishes that he gets disowned by his own family.  

Super Deluxe

Thiagarajan Kumararaja’s ‘Super Deluxe’ was one of the highlights of 2019. The film has four stories running parallely and they get tied up in the end. 

In one of the stories, Vijay Sethupathi plays a transwoman Shilpa, who wants his son Rasukutty and wife Jyothi, to accept his sexual identity. Rasukutty’s character is special because he offers a lesson on accepting people for who they are. Sethupathi gets into the skin of the character and brings out the concerns in the mind of a transwoman.   

Naanu Avanalla Avalu

‘Naanu Avanalla Avalu’ (2015), based on the autobiography ‘I am Vidya’, bagged two National Awards. The late Sanchari Vijay, playing the lead character, was terrific in his portrayal of a transgender person. The spirited attitude of Living Smile Vidya, who faced all odds to find her space and respect in society, is brought out well by Vijay in this Kannada film.   

Njan Marykutty 

‘Njan Marykutty’ (2018), the Malayalam movie directed by Ranjith Sankar, rightly educates the audience on who a transgender person is. The story revolves around how Mathukutty, a transsexual, achieves her dream of becoming sub inspector by overcoming physical and mental trauma. This is an inspiring story that fills people with hope. 

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