Big B Is Playing A "Transgender Ghost" In An Akshay Kumar Film & We Don't Know What To Think Of It

Say no to straight dudes playing trans roles!

After the grand success of Stree (thanks to its clever script), we’re about to get another horror comedy from Bollywood. And we should be excited, right? But yaar mainstream Bollywood just makes it so difficult!

Filmmaker Raghava Lawrence is remaking his hit Tamil film Muni 2: Kanchana, starring Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani in the lead roles. The shooting of Laaxmi Bomb (which is what the Hindi version is being called) has already started, but there’s a catch. Amitabh Bachchan is allegedly playing a “transgender ghost” in the film and we’ve reasons to worry.

We do not expect a nuanced depiction of a transgender character from an Akshay Kumar film, that too a film that is supposed to be a comedy. Mainstream Bollywood has never treated LGBTQ characters as anything more than comic relief. Actually, Bollywood loves painting everything that deserves subtlety with the broadest brushstrokes possible.

After all, KJo still loves taking credit for starting a discussion about homosexuality in middle-class India households after making Dostana where two cis-het men pretend to be gay to get close to a girl they fancy.

*inserting all the eyerolls in the world here wouldn’t be enough*

Cis-het characters playing transgender roles can be seen as a form of trans erasure from popular narrative, especially when they’re reduced to nothing but misplaced and problematic punchlines.

Also, just because Big B did a comedy shtick in 1981 by cross-dressing in ‘Mere Angne Mein’ (Lawaaris) to get a few cheap laughs, doesn’t make it okay for him to repeat the mistake in 2019. We know better now. He was also in black face in that song for a segment, to jog your memory in case you love the song (and you’re allowed to) and want to defend it against all our “SJW nonsense”.

For all we know Raghava might actually succeed in humanising the character amidst all the humour that will run the risk of being in bad taste at all given times. So, why not at least try to create a job opportunity for an actual trans actor while at it? Because lord knows that Big B doesn’t need one more “challenging” role in his career to prove his mettle as an actor.

Recently, Scarlett Johansson backed out of the film Rub & Tug where she was supposed to play Dante “Tex” Gill, a real-life American crime kingpin who used his massage parlor as a front for prostitution in the 1970s and 1980s. Dante was born as a woman but identified as a man. After backlash from the LGBTQ community, Johansson decided to step down from playing the role, a move that has been appreciated by the queer community.

(Courtesy: Reuters)

R. Sarathkumar played the role Big B is allegedly about to portray and he received a mostly positive feedback for his performance. However, research scholar Nanditha Ravinder interviewed Bharaa Bobby, a trans woman, for her paper, ‘Portrayal of Transgender People in Tamil Cinema and Why It Matters’, published in the Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. Here is an excerpt from the paper that echoes our sentiment:

“Bharaa Bobby, an Engineering graduate who is a trans woman says, ‘After about 20 years or so, the way transgender people are portrayed is now better. Movies like Thenavattu are an example of that. Kanchana portrayed a transgender well. The movie had a good impact and many people came forward to help us (the community) after that movie. Hence more roles like that would be appreciated.’ She, however, questioned why directors don’t give the lead roles or other roles with substance to more trans people.”