ACV hosting special pre-screening reception for film championing equality…
By Sailesh Ram
IT WILL BE A WORLD Premiere for the film, ‘Ek Aasha’ on Friday and acv is hosting a reception ahead of the actual screening at Regent Street Cinema in London.
Director Mayur Katariya’s film is an exploration of the issues faced by transgender people in India – through the remarkable story of ‘Aashish’ who becomes ‘Aasha’ (Disha Yadav) and wants to have a career as a teacher. Yadav is a transgender person and has faced many of the issues covered in the film, in real life.
Transgender has a long and venerable history in ancient India and such communities were openly recognised and not shunned in the way they are today.
That is the view Katariya asserted in an interview with www.asianculturevulture.com just before he left his home in Melbourne for the UK Asian Film Festival.
“This culture existed for thousands of year on the subcontinent and it spoke to me very loudly. It’s not new, gender dysphoria (feeling of being born into the wrong sex) has always existed.”
It is very difficult for a person who finds themselves in this position to lead a normal life, even after transition and the gender change.
Katariya said he remembered a young friend who suddenly disappeared when he was growing up in Surat, in Gujarat, India.
“A friend of mine was transgender, I was about 10/11 and my friend about 7/8. After a bit, I inquired and his family said, ‘we don’t talk about him any more, he has left’.”
There was no explanation or support for his friend – and many are driven are out and forced to take refuge in a house, with other transgender women in India.
Katariya said while this has some positives in being a self-supporting community, it is also quite limiting in its outlook, usually.
“They are a deprived community, most have left their family and join a house run by a guru (in this context a matriarchal figure who is transgender).
“They sign their lives over and have to rely on the guru and while most gurus are good, it is still a difficult situation.”
Katariya said the community still feels hostility and aggression.
“It is like society has put them into a box and do not want them to come of that box. They need to come of that box.”
The film challenges these notions and puts Aasha’s predicament starkly.
“This is the only group in India, which is left behind, everyone else has allowed themselves to be educated and have modernised. They are deprived of education.”
So, Katariya is making a point to both transgenders and the wider community.
In framing Aasha’s dream to be a teacher, he is saying to the transgender community, raise your horizons, don’t be frightened of having dreams and ambitions and to the wider community, it is a call to be fair, not to stigmatise and discriminate against those who are transgender.
“Most people are fearful of this community but there is no need,” he said.
He had a lot of practical challenges making the film – finding a lead who could carry such a big part was one but through contacts he found Disha Yadav.
Yadav was meant to be travelling to London for the premiere, but continuing issues around her passport and documentation meant that has not happened.
Clearly her gender change has lain at the heart of that.
At one point there was the opportunity of casting an established Bollywood actor in the guru role.
“She said she would reduce her fees to just 30 per cent – I just could not do that,” confessed Katariya. “It was the soul of the film. All 11 transgender parts are played by 11 transgenders.”
Initially, he made a documentary about the transgender community in Surat and at one point he had local financial backing.
“I had raised some money but not enough to complete a full production and then someone from the state said they would help but they lost the election and that possibility ended.”
He raised the final finance through friends and family.
This is Katariya’s first feature – ‘Ek Aasha’ will now be screened in nine festivals.
“The festival’s theme of revolution is very inspiring and Pushpinder Chowdhry (festival founder and director) has been amazingly supportive,” Katariya said.
He actually had a place to study filmmaking as a young man in India but eschewed the opportunity and became an engineer in line with his family’s expectations.
“I knew what my parents would think, I didn’t even tell them,” he explained.
He went to Australia to study and it was his Australian wife, Jasmine’s passion and interest in photography that led him back to filmmaking.
Both work at Monash University in Melbourne.
“I can’t wait to show my film and I am very excited about the screening and acv reception at the UK Asian Film Festival,” he declared.
The film screens only once in London – so, what are you waiting for?
‘Ek Aasha’ acv reception 5.30, Friday March 29, 307 Regent Street, Marylebone, London W1B 2HW.
Book cinema tickets for access to reception: https://www.regentstreetcinema.com/programme/ek-aasha/
For more on the UK Asian Film Festival March 27- May 4 (London, Leicester, Manchester and Glasgow, please see http://www.tonguesonfire.com