After the masterly Masaan which took the world by storm, director Neeraj Ghaywan has just released a 3-minute ad-film telling the story of the real-life transgender-mother Gauri Sawant’s struggle to bring up her adopted story.
The ad has touched a chord in every human heart. Gauri Sawant is indeed the hero of the moment, feted honoured and adulated for her courage and tenacity.
Says Neeraj, “Gauri is enjoying every minute of the attention. When the concept was tossed to me I was immediately taken up by her story.I treated the story like a narrative for a film. But I cast the real Gauri in the film.”
Gauri has become a star after the ad went viral. However, be warned, the girl playing Gauri’s daughter in the ad is not her real daughter.
“Gauri was very clear on this. She didn’t want her real daughter to be exposed on a public platform.We respected her wishes and worked our way around her reservations,” says Neeraj, admitting that shooting the film was a learning experience for him. “We tend to stereotype transgenders. See them as loud and crass, clapping and singing. In this film, through the poignant story of Gauri Sawant, I wanted to humanize the community. I wanted to show that under all the bravado and the posturing they are normal people, with nurturing qualities.We tried to present her in a heteronormative context for mostly heterosexual audience to firstly empathize with her , and then perhaps move to the next level of accepting what she is.”
The film has succeeded in humanizing the trans-gender community beyond all expectations.
Neeraj gives Gauri Sawant the credit for the success of the film. “Once she was in, she surrendered herself completely to our vision.”
Neeraj stresses the nurturing quality in the transgender-mother. “Gauri Sawant has not only raised a daughter single-handedly, she’s also a part of an organization that takes care of AIDS patients.And believe it or not, Gauri saves and preserves turtles.She has rescued over a 1000 turtles so far and put them back into ponds. I think she identifies with the endeavour to protect endangered species.”
The filmmaker who is now writing his second feature film and has completed another short-film on the theme of patriarchal prejudices, feels for marginalized sections of the society. “If you see Masaan, that too is about people who are pushed to the edges. Politics will always remain a part of my cinema. But not as electoral politics but as a reminder of how politics affects the lives of ordinary people.”
Gauri Sawant’s story is, in that sense, a mirror of the gender politics that stymies lives that don’t conform to convention.
Says Neeraj, “Her story is unbelievable. When her father, a cop in Maharashtra, found out Gauri was a transgender he threw her out of the house.He’s a cop and she still loves him dearly.”
For the final shot of the memortable ad-film Gauri had to express heartbreaking grief as she’s shown leaving her daughter at a boarding school.
For this shot Neeraj had to manipulate real tears from Gauri. “I asked her to remember any incident from her life that broke her heart. She remembered how one day she suddenly saw her father across the road.She wanted to rush and hug him but she couldn’t. The memory of that moment served my purpose. I don’t believe glycerine tears work .At least not in my films.”