The last time we had Bollywood acknowledge and represent the trans community, it didn’t go too well. That was the Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmiii, streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. But have things changed since then?
A hot man and a hot woman fall in love. Where’s the conflict? In Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, Ayushmann Khurrana plays Manvinder, a body builder who falls in love with Maanvi, a Zumba instructor played by Vaani Kapoor. After an intense choreographed courting — including but not limited to sex — Manvinder finds out that Maanvi is a trans woman, and this confuses his preconceived notions of love and family. In the trailer Maanvi notes with exasperation, “Tujhe pata problem kya hai. Yeh baat naa tu hazam kar paa raha hai, na mein khatam kar paa rahi hoon.”
The film is releasing in a fraught time for the trans community. The National Council for Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT) just recently removed a new training manual on the inclusion of transgender children in schools from its official website, after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) wanted to clarify the “anomalies” in the document. The manual was an introduction to gender identities and featured strategies to create a more inclusive space for transgender children. One of the trans women on the advisory board for this manual has also been trolled and hounded this past week.
The idea of a man feeling cheated by a trans woman has been dealt with, with amateurish intent in Pati Patni Aur Panga, an MX Player show, also set in Chandigarh. That show, however, was panned, for its portrayal and ignorance of trans people.
Written by Abhishek Kapoor, Supratik Sen and Tushar Paranjape, directed by Kapoor (Rock On!!, Kai Po Che, Kedarnath, Fitoor), and produced by Bhushan Kumar and Pragya Kapoor, the film releases theatrically on December 10th. It has been acquired by Netflix.