If there is one emerging name who is literally breaking barriers, it's Sushant Divgikr, aka Rani Ko-HE-Nur. Having come from a place where they were subjected to humiliation and bullying for being transgender, today, they have earned a place for themselves in the industry and have now officially made their Bollywood debut with Bhumi Pednekar-starrer Thank You For Coming.
In a candid chat with The Free Press Journal, Sushant shared the feedback that they have been receiving for Thank You For Coming and the challenges faced by trans actors in showbiz, along with a special message for filmmakers.
What feedback did you receive for playing both male and trans character in Thank You For Coming?
The response has been overwhelming. For the ones who have known me since forever, it was after a long time that they got to see me in the avatar of the Sushant that they knew. And my newer fans got a glimpse of how I used to look before I came out as trans. I'm happy that people loved and accepted me in the role and it will always remain very close to my heart.
What do you feel about the portrayal of trans characters in Indian films?
There has been an extreme representation of trans characters in our films for years, like there would be some funny background music or the portrayal would be caricaturish. But the times are now changing. I hope filmmakers come forward and show the other side of our community as well, where people are educated and doing well in their lives, and where they are not merely a part of some juvenile humour.
What are your thoughts on cisgender actors being cast in roles of trans characters?
Filmmaker say they auditioned 2-3 trans actors for the role of a trans character but they were not 'up to the mark'. Are you joking when you say you've auditioned just 2-3 actors out of the hundreds? Are you doing the community a favour by calling those two people? Is there not one trans actor in this country who is fit to play the character of a transgender person on screen? Filmmakers want A-listers for the 'star power', they say. Recently, a show saw a very popular star essay the role of a trans person, but the project fell flat on its face. On the other hand, we saw Trinetra Haldar play a trans person in Made In Heaven 2, and the audiences loved her. So the 'star power' and 'popular face' remark is just an excuse.
What challenges did you face in your journey?
Our films play a very key role in shaping people's perspectives. But these films have always shown a trans person either begging or doing sex work or behaving in a comical way. So majority of people think that the entire community is like that, and it difficult to convince them otherwise. Transgender people are also educated; they are doctors, teachers, engineers and are doing well in every other walk of life. So, show that side as well because this negative perspective of the people pushes our morale down.
Do you have any message for filmmakers?
Give us a chance. Forget straight roles, we are not even offered the roles of trans characters on screen. I can assure all filmmakers that they can give this country some of the best artists from our community. We are just like every other 'star' out there, or maybe even better. At the end of the day, I am an artist -- an actor -- irrespective of what my gender is. So you just need to place your trust in us and we can do wonders!