“Avana Nee”- A letter to ourself

Dear Kanna,

Hey, I received your letter. I can understand your wide interest in knowing about the ‘Queer community.’ Yes, your approach towards the community is important. As of now, it’s in the right direction. We the people being close to the film industry, we intent to compare or find a reference to everything we learn in the movie we watch. I appreciate your questions and the back work you did for asking me. All your questions will be answered one by one. We will discuss this from the beginning.

What is the ‘Queer community’?

Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual. Queer is an acronym of LGBTQIAPP+. It is a collection of identities short for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, aromantic, pansexual, polysexual (sometimes abbreviated to LGBT or LGBTQ+).  Everything is different from each, you were right in this aspect. To be specific in Tamil movies, a lot of trans content can be seen than addressing the rest, like Gay or Bisexual relationships.

How ‘Queer Community’ is addressed in the movies?

This question shook me a little. Yes, you wrote more about Shilpa from “Super Deluxe”. Vijay Sethupathi once in an interview said, “Shilpa is a thozhi he never had.” I knew almost everyone loves Shilpa’s character more. But representing the queer community or trans is not done properly in Tamil cinema. Though it is Shilp or any other character. I personally feel Tamil cinema or regional cinema has addressed the trans community specifically.

Tamil cinema uses trans to fulfil the humour scarcity. They also defame them through curious representation in songs. They significantly describe transgender through various derogative words and labels. It directly causes violence, hate crimes, and other forms of discrimination of transgender people in real life. For example, in the movie ‘Thirupaachi’, there will be a lyric having these lines, “Onnu rendu moonu naalu/ Anchu aaru ezhu ettu/ Ithukku aasaiya paaru/ Hey paathu paathu paathu paathu/ Paathukkulla onna vettu/ Ettu ettu ettu ettu/ Ettukuda onna koottu”, these lines are mocking them. But in reality, these words hurt them so much. 

The film industry began by discriminating the community. Like body shaming and racial discrimination, trans or gay or lesbian related characters are used to develop a comical content in a movie. In the movie, “Gambeeram”, Vadivelu says to a reporter, “Avana nee”, these things sets a bad example to kids. Often kids address these to the same age boys that make them inferior. 

Most of the time, movies portray transwomen as a prostitute or beggar. In the Tamil movie, “Appu”, Prakesh Raj acts as a trans woman who runs a brothel. The character is represented as a transgender villain, Maharani, a tyrannical pimp who murders anyone she perceives a threat. This menace sense of the character carried away to the audience. In the movie “Vanam”, Anushka and her friend, Karpooram (who is trans) are prostitutes. Trans and Queer community people are busy changing the world now.

How are the problems of the Queer community addressed in the movies?

Earlier in 1995, Mani Ratnam’s film “Bombay”, addresses the issue of identity crisis along with the Pakistan and India Controversies. Basically that movie captures the war between Hindus and Muslims. Mani Ratnam introduces a transwoman character who rescues Banu and Shekhar’s son. That turns out to be a turning point in the movie, where Hindus and Muslims run to kill each other but a transwoman rescues the child in order to save the child.

The next big credit goes to Raghava Lawerence’s “Kanchana 1.” The character of Sarath Kumar under the name, ‘Kanchana’ supports the Trans community people. The hardship and pain in the transwomen and transmen are discussed in the movie. The movie further adds how people and family look at them.

From when did the people become aware of the ‘Queer community’?

We should thank the media for this awareness. After passing the Section 377 act during 2018 in India, the media took a huge interest in educating people in this area of studies or culture. Many people proudly identified themselves as a part of the Queer community after this act came into function. Though there were communities before passing the act, they were less known to the people. Youngsters became bold and found their identity.

How can the Queer community be addressed in the Tamil Cinema?

There are a lot of series and movies in Hindi and English addressing the Queer community. For example, “Riverdale”, an English series talks about the emotions of bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian relationships. The character of Moose and Kevin educates the possibility of other gay couples to survive in society. This same happens with Cheryl and Toni. Another series which educates the young mind about different sexual orientations is, “Sex Education.” This particular series awakens the various taboo topics in all countries.  “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhana”, talks about the love between two men.

Tamil cinema has changed in many ways from day 1 of its production to till today. Frequently the taboo topics are addressed in the films in order to make people aware of other people’s life. Constructing a character like Shilpa needs great strength. The character has received great acclamation in the industry. There are movies that address the Queer community. Those movies either become an unknown art (example EnMagan Maghizvan, only a few know about this movie) or the screenplay is not good. I wish a great script and fantastic acting should represent the problems, pain, love, family, and hardship in the movie. We will look forward to those kinds of movies dear.

Take care, Kanna.


Yours lovingly

Janaki Balasubramanian

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kavya

    You have portrayed it beautifully! Great work! Keep going. Our society needs to change and everyone should treat others equally. Let’s support for LGBTQIA. Good luck!!

  2. Elakkiya

    A letter with good vision. Congratulations to the writer.

  3. Jaysha

    Good work on different perspective. Congrats!!!!

  4. Arunprakash T

    Very neatly explained about the portrayal of other genders in the movies and how it can be portrayed in more meaningful way so the society can understand them better.

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