Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Common Gender: The First Queer Feature in Bangladesh

Making film on sexually marginalized people is almost a revolutionary attempt by a filmmaker in Bangladesh. Noman Robin’s debut feature Common Gender: The Film portrays the struggle and deprivation of Hijras, the transgender community in Bangladesh. It is a movie version of a television drama of the same title. Queer films are regularly produced in some other countries which depict the psycho-social struggle of homosexual, transgender or transvestites. Directors like Derek Jarman or Gregg Araki have addressed the queer issues in their films. Some of the films made by Pedro Almodovar, Rainer Warner Fassbinder, Chen Kaige, Ang Lee or Wong Kar-Wai also dealt with the issue. In Bangladesh, the study of identity politics focuses on the rights of women in a patriarchal society. But other sexual identities are generally ignored in the art forms. Common Gender is one if the first artistic expressions that deals with the issues of Hijras, a marginalized community with transgender sexual identity.

Though Hijras have several forms in sexual identities, in Common Gender, they are described as children born as males but as they grow up, internal hormonal change compels them to act like females; they wear female dresses, behave like women; at a stage, they are rejected by their family and the society they used to live in. After leaving the family, they are raised within a Hijra community, under the supervision of a Masi. In the new derived community their names are changed – Susmoy turns into Susmita or Babu into Bubli. These two are two prominent characters in the film Common Gender but they have some other friends named as Tuli, Shakiba, Shakira, Pori and Tushi. They have a common friend Tota Mia with regular male identity residing nearby their slum. In a wedding, a Hindu young man Sanjoy proposed Susmita to be his friend. Through mobile phone conversations they become intimate. Sanjoy often says if Susmita were a woman. Sanjoy’s expectation increases femininity within Susmita. She falls in love with Sanjoy. Sanjoy introduces Susmita with his parents but they scolded their son for having a Hijra friend. After being ill-treated by Sanjoy’s parents, Susmita committed suicide. The very day of Susmita’s death, her mother visited the slum. Bubli started missing her mother after seeing Susmita’s mother. She visited her home in the midnight. Her brother scolded and beat her for entering home. This incident also provoked Bubli to commit suicide. In the last imaginary scene of the film, Susmita and Bubli met in the heaven.