September 16, 2020
Chitrangada, a Bengali movie that came out in the year 2012. And the movie woke an audience to the elite transgender community in India. When I say elite, I refer to the community that can afford to access education. Which also includes the comprehension of the laws and the legalities that are beneficial or hindering them.
Chitrangada is a movie that has almost turned out to be a cult classic among LGBT+ Indian movies. Releasing back in 2012, the movie stood out as a sympathetic perspective that tried to empower the transgender community. So prepare yourself for a whole lot of spoilers.
This review will not tell you whether you should watch the movie or not. I will leave that to your own discretion. And the reason behind that is the nature of the movie and how you seek to absorb it in today’s LGBT+ situation.
The story of Chitrangada
Chitranganda is a mythological character from the epic, Mahabharatha. Chitrangada’s father always wanted a son. So when Chitrangada is born, her father decided to raise her like a son. And Chitrangada adheres to her father’s wishes. She behaves, acts, and engages as a male until she meets with Prince Arjuna during a hunt. Arjuna is one of the five sons of the Pandavas. Coming back to Chitrangada, she suddenly gets in touch with her femininity, feminine desires and needs when she develops feelings for Arjun.
Now, what does this have to do with the protagonist, Rudra?
Rudra is a play director, and he directs the play of Chitraganda. Mainly in his head. Rudra, a man transitioning into a woman is stuck at a hospital undergoing surgeries to make it happen. All of which is initiated because Rudra falls in love with a drummer with a drug problem. I will be using the “he/him” pronouns to refer to Rudra since everyone in the movie refers to him that way.
Rudra and Partho of them share a semi-toxic relationship that affects Rudra’s professional and familial life. His rehearsals are a mess because of Partho’s drug problems. And yet, Rudra and Partho seem to have an inseparable relationship. Partho treats Rudra like a drug, and Rudra treats Partho like a gateway to better things in life. Since Rudra is unable to deal with his transition or his parent’s unacceptance of his gender transition.
Rudra’s play is a clear reflection of Chitrangada. His heart and soul is stuck in the performance of the play. And all parts of his life are intertwined with his theatre group. Rudra’s character might come out as a tad bit high and mighty, pretentious, and even selfish.
Rudra and Chitraganda
Rudra has a rough time being a person of charge for so long. Directing powerful plays, being a dancer, having multiple people look up to him, standing up to his parents, and supporting multiple others on the side is an exhausting personality trait. Rudra is a strong character with a strong sense of morality and righteousness. But that’s all there is to Rudra. The characters in the movie come off as a bit flat and predictable.
Even looking at it from the transgender upliftment perspective, the movie barely delivers. Rudra’s story is close to reality, but the problem arises when Rudra can see problems in all other parts of his life, and stand up against it. Unless it is his partner Partho.
Even Rudra’s relationship with his psychologist is a bit shaky and artsy. The psychologist engages on a much superficial level. But that’s not what lands this movie at a 6.4 rating on IMDb.
Gay, Transgender or Just Want A Child?
Many have claimed that the movie does not discuss gender and sexuality as much as it discusses the journey of self-discovery. But the problem is that his self-discovery is because of his sexuality and gender. Partho loves Rudra and Rudra loves Partho. And they decide to have a child together. And that is when Rudra says they will not be allowed to have a child together, and so Rudra will undergo the procedures that help turn him into a woman.
So is Rudra gay? Is he a man wanting to transition into a woman? Or was Rudra just misguided? The representation of what it means to be gay or transgender is all a little too blurred. But let’s face it. Back in 2012, not many people even spoke about the LGBT+ community as often. And Chitrangada would send chills down your spine if it were watched five years ago.
Chitrangada is a beautifully directed movie, and there’s no changing that. And the concept is also pretty solid. But the movie runs into a downward spiral of trauma and agony where the information and idea that is trying to get through, gets very lost. But if you are someone who enjoys artistic and dark movies, watch it and tell us what you think.
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