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Documentary on India’s transgender community shows they are just like us

A new documentary offers a fresh perspective on the transgender community

Written by Pooja Khati |
Updated: June 16, 2016 10:04:11 am
Reshal Shah Kapoor, Reshal Shah Kapoor documentary, Reshal Shah Kapoor documentary on transgenders, Black Sheep, Black Sheep Documentary on transgenders, Human rights gold award winner documentary, Human rights gold award winner movie on Tran-genders, Latest news, Bollywood news Reshal Shah Kapoor (in yellow) in a still from her documentary Black Sheep

When UK-based documentary filmmaker Reshal Shah Kapoor landed in Mumbai in 2014 to make a film on India’s transgender community, the only thing which Manisha — their godmother — said to her was, “If you plan to show us as us then our hearts and homes are yours.” Six trips and two years later, Black Sheep was made. In the 72-minute documentary, 30-year-old Kapoor tries to look beyond the transgender label and understand these people as individuals. The documentary follows the lives of Manisha, Sneha, Kaif, Mariya and others, in an effort to explore love, relationships and friendships from a new perspective. It has recently won the Human rights gold award at the World Human Rights Awards Festival in Indonesia.

Kapoor says she was 18 when she had her first encounter with the community. She was on a rickshaw with her family in Mumbai when they were approached by a transgender. Kapoor’s sister offered him some money and that was it. However, 10 years later when a group of transgenders blessed her during post her wedding ceremony in Delhi, her interest in the community was rekindled.

“I was amazed at how these people are part of a mythical story, yet not accepted by the society,” says Kapoor, who has previously made corporate documentaries . And she began her research for Black Sheep, her first major project as a director, which she has co-produced along with Accord Equips.

While interviewing a transgender over Skype, Kapoor had to face some tough questions. “Do you know what my favourite colour is? Or who I think is good looking? The questions you ask me are the ones a journalist asks,” she was told, pointing to the emotional disconnect people have with them. So Black Sheep gives us a different perspective of their daily lives, which is perhaps no different from ours. They wake up, go to work, joke around with their colleagues and go home, watch TV, eat dinner and sleep. Their weekends are spent shopping, spending time with loved ones or even getting drunk at times. “They have dreams like all of us. While one wants to be a fashion designer, the other wants to become a lawyer but only to fight transgender cases,” says Kapoor.

However the realisation of these dreams is not easy. Kapoor says many of them are abandoned by their parents fearing social stigma. A lack of education, opportunities and the inherent prejudice means that they have to struggle to get a job. Many end up begging or as sex workers. “I remember asking one of them why do they do sex work, she answered back, ‘Get me a job as a teacher or a receptionist and I’ll stop right now’.”

With a raging debate on the rights of the transgender community across the world, Kapoor says the solution is perhaps quite simple. One just needs to stop judging them. “If they come asking for a job, remember that we are stopping someone from begging,” says Kapoor, who hopes to release the film this year, through an online platform.

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