Actor Vaani Kapoor says his movie Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is a talking point as it aims to present an authentic on-screen portrayal of trans people in mainstream Bollywood cinema.
Director Abhishek Kapoor places the struggles and dilemma of a trans woman, played by Vaani, without looking at the community through the lens of victimization, she said.
The actor, whose role as Maanvi in the film brought him the best reviews of his career, believes the film achieved its goal of sparking a conversation about trans people and their rights.
“We just wanted to normalize that and break the stereotypes. There is this perception, built over all these years, when we were growing up. The benchmarks that we’ve witnessed in movies and shows, I don’t think we need to live with today. This is a misrepresentation.
“A man in a woman’s sari is not the correct representation of a trans girl. They are as gorgeous, beautiful and ‘normal’ as any other cis girl,” Vaani told PTI.
The romantic drama turns the boy-meets-girl trope on its head, when Maanvi’s lover, played by actor Ayushmann Khurrana, realizes she is a trans woman.
The journey – from shock, disgust to welcome and nurture – is what Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui captures.
While the film, which opened in theaters last week, received a positive response, there was a section that felt that a trans character, ideally, should have been played by a trans person.
Vaani said the film should be seen as a serious attempt to start an important conversation, hoping that one day actors in the community will be able to play all kinds of characters and not just those limited to their identity.
“We only have a visual reference of a man dressing to look like a trans girl. So for a cis girl to play the part, the majority of the audience would think it’s the portrayal of a trans girl like, that’s not a man in a sari.
“At least it’s a topic of conversation. I hope tomorrow they will be welcomed by the public, there will be more stories with different narratives about trans people. I hope we reach a stage tomorrow where a trans girl can play the part of a cis girl and blur the lines of identities… and not just limit herself to playing trans in a movie.
Vaani said the film’s greatest strength is its crowd appeal — delivering a message without being “preachy.”
“Maanvi is not cliché. Abhishek never tried to victimize her or make the story too dramatic. He created the right balance, which was hard to break. It’s non-judgmental and appeals to all types of audiences – both progressive and regressive.
Initially, the 33-year-old actor felt pressure to play a trans woman on the right.
Her preparation consisted of talking to trans girls, understanding their lives, their transition, watching documentaries and drawing conclusions from interviews with trans people.
“I just had to be responsible for getting it right. We have ensured that it is perceived in a different way than what we are usually used to seeing in the community we are trying to speak to or represent.
“She’s not the butt of the joke. You’re not trying to invalidate their identity. There are so many beautiful, gorgeous trans girls out there. They’re good people. I tried to instill all of that to this character,” she added.
The actress, who has previously starred in films like Shuddh Desi Romance, Befikre and the blockbuster War, said she felt lucky that her performance touched people, including those in the film industry.
“I’m grateful that people inside and outside the industry appreciate my performance. They really give me the respect of an actor, which feels good. There are few feminine and fleshed out parts for women. It’s hard to get them.
“So when you get them, you want to make the most of them. Mine was a serious attempt to play the part with the utmost honesty. I gave my heart and soul to it,” she added.