Wanted to break the stereotypical representation of trans people in cinema: Mujeer
Indian cinema has completed over a hundred years. In these years, not many stories around transgenders have been told. Even if there are transgender characters, they are either played by male actors such as Ashutosh Rana in Shabnam Mausi or female actors such as Seema Biswas in Queens! Destiny of Dance. There has been a lack of inclusiveness for the third gender in the film industry, as it has been in society at large.
However, millennials are open to exploring all kinds of stories, especially using film as a medium to address several stigmas. One such film is JLT’s Project Indian Bride directed by Mujeer Pasha. The film which is available for viewing on VOD platform jltplex.com, revolves around the story of Rekha, an urban trans girl who wants to be a model. We speak to Mujeer to know more about the film which aims to break the backward mindset associated with transgender people.
Tell us about your background. When and how did you get into filmmaking?
I come from a family of movie buffs. My grandfather used to own a video library in the 70s and 80s, though he was a tailor by profession. As a kid, watching Hindi movies and discussing them were my favorite activities. I would joke about growing old and making movies. That attracted some laughter, some encouragement, but I enjoyed saying that. And then, I grew up and studied Engineering (by choice), took up a technical job and continued with it, for I thought I wanted that. During the same phase, I made my first film and was sure that my madness would settle at that. But it didn’t.
I wanted to better myself and make just one other film. With my second film, I realized the power of the medium and wanted to learn more. I couldn’t afford to go to a film institute so I read, watched filmmaking videos, assisted a filmmaker and continued writing and making movies. Some things fell in place, some I made happen. I write for a corporate 5 days a week now and that pays my bills. I make films to express. They are my voice, they are my channel to connect with people.
Why the idea of making a film around an urban transgender in particular, instead of a regular trans girl?
I wanted to break the stereotypical representation of trans people in cinema. My film has a man (Nazim), woman (Mohsina) and a transperson (Rekha) and they are simple and ordinary people. They all speak English, have a job, have friends, have issues, have set backs. They are alike irrespective of their gender. Rekha works at a corporate, speaks English fluently, lives in an apartment and has loving friends and parents and that’s no big deal for her. That is her regular life. I wanted to tell a story where we see trans people without special struggles.
There are many shorts and other format films being made on transgenders leading to discussions and debates across different forums. How do you think do these films help the cause?
I enjoy watching them. These films help the idea of inclusivity in a big way because seeing is believing. For ages, we have been turning our faces away and avoiding to acknowledge trans people around us. It’s high time we change our outlook towards them. Also, it’s exciting to see how other filmmakers and content creators include trans people in their stories. This creates employment and awareness.
How did you go about casting for JLT’s Project Indian Bride? How difficult was it to get someone to enact?
I met Arvind and Surabhi (the photographer and his wife) through my mentor, Bharath. I wanted to work with them. I narrated the story to them and they liked it. For Rekha’s part, I didn’t want a guy to play the role. Since we were talking about inclusivity, I wanted a transperson to play themself. I was introduced to Vinita by a friend, Sharath. I met her for research and ended up casting her.
What are your expectations from the film?
I want people to watch JLT’s Project Indian Bride. And when they watch it, it will do what it’s meant to do. After watching the film, I have had a lot of people tell me how the film helped them think considerably, think differently and how they felt Rekha could be anybody. It could be them.
How do you plan to promote the film and help it reach its target audiences?
I made the film in 2015. We have had screenings at several Indian film festivals. The response was encouraging and now JLT Films is showing it worldwide. I am glad about that. JLTPlex.com will help us reach out to more people.
Is there a plan to make a feature on the subject, as there is a dearth of films based on it?
There is no plan for now but I will make more films about inclusivity.
JLT’s Project Indian Bride is available on JLTplex.com. In celebration of Pride Month, JLTplex is offering Pandolin’s readers a 50 % discount on the film. Check it out now!