Shruti Vijaya Padmakar
It’s Pride Month, y’all!
Clueless about which movie to watch this weekend, I randomly landed upon ‘Navarasa’, a Santhosh Sivan directorial which garnered a lot of awards in its kitty. As all major sites have been celebrating the Pride Month this June, MUBI has this special section about the movies that speak upon the issues of the ‘third gender’. Out of many other movies that touch upon the topic, I picked this particular movie about which I had no clue whatsoever! But I must say, it was a splendid experience!
The movie ‘Navarasa’ revolves around a young girl Shwetha, who has just entered her teenage years and is full of life. She has an affectionate relationship with her uncle, Gautham. One fine day, Shwetha discovers about Gautham’s transformation into Gauthami every night to lead a different life altogether. When confronted, Gautham expresses his wish to run away to marry Aravan at Koovagam and lead his life as ‘Aravani’ as the popular folklore goes. The next day, Gautham actually escapes and Shwetha decides to bring him back. Shwetha’s quest to find Gautham forms the crux of the story.
There is this unique festival where the transgender community from all over India gathers at Koovagam, a village in Tamil Nadu. The festival consists of a beauty pageant held for the third gender in Vilipuram followed by the grand Koovagam Festival, where the community meets to re-enact the story of Aravan and Mohini from the epic Mahabharata.
The minute details about the woes of the third gender captured by the director speaks volumes about his craft. It is hard to believe how brilliantly such a movie was made back in 2005, when the issues of LGBTQI community were not highlighted upon even a bit. Their daily struggles for livelihood, question upon their existence, misinterpretations about the third gender, etc. have been put forth so well in this movie. The journey of Shwetha getting to know many details about the third gender closely through the Koovagam Festival is truly a delight to watch.
All the actors portraying the roles of the transgender community are actually among the ones from the community, which makes this movie even more remarkable. Kushboo, who plays Gautham shows all traits of an experienced actor. P. Shwetha has done a splendid job as Shwetha. Bobby Darling as himself brings about the light moments in the movie effortlessly. Some popular names from the transgender community featured in the movie include Laxmi Tripathi, a popular socialite and advocate of the third gender now based in Mumbai.
The last quote from the movie ‘I have faith in the future’ resonates and stays for a longer time. What an incredible creation by Santhosh Sivan! This should not be missed at all. ‘Navarasa’ (2005) is available on MUBI.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.