This is an ‘unusual’ film in the Indian cultural context, in the way it handles issues of gender, sexuality and same–sex relationships.
The surprising yet relevant elements pertain to the melding of private and personal issues with a long–standing cultural traditions of boys and men playing female roles on the traditional Bengali stage.
One of these androgynous men, who is still alive (age 71), is interviewed in the film for a proposed documentary to be made by a young gay filmmaker. As he reveals the most poignant moments and incidents of his chequered life as a ‘heroine’, the gay director–protagonist with his bisexual Cinematographer partner, as well as those in their immediate circle, experience similar yet different conflicts mirrored in their own lives.
Thus, two parallel narratives start running side by side. The principal story of the director making a documentary on a queen of yesteryears is interwined with the fictional renditions of the old queen’s colourful life.
Despite the differences between the chronicler and his subject- the newly liberated and the closeted; the informed and the virtually unlettered; the brash and the bashful–there is a core element of essential empathy between two human beings marginalized by the society.
Has the gay director been in denial then? Is his ‘coming out’ as liberating as imagined?
Incidentally the Indian Penal Code which has long discriminated against homosexuality by treating it as a criminal, and thus a legally punishable offense, has been recently repealed by the Delhi High Court. Gay rights activists have since been dancing on the streets.
Though our film was conceived much earlier, the contemporary relevance of the subject becomes all the more thought–provoking and important.