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Chitrangada- The crowning wish: Homosexuality, Gender Identity and Social Acceptance in contemporary India.

Rituparno Ghoshs Chitrangada- The crowning wish is one of the films that has depicted the challenges homosexual and transgender people face in todays society. Indian mainstream popular cinema has often ridiculed homosexuality by showing it as something unusual and unnatural (Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan being suspected gay by their maid in Kal ho na ho or Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham pretending to be gay in Dostana to get close to a girl). Then again, there were parallel movies like Deepa Mehtas Fire, which showed two women resorting to lesbianism after being neglected by their husbands, thus giving the wrong message unintentionally. Chitrangada, however is different from all these previous attempts. Rituparno Ghosh borrows the idea for his film from Tagores one act play Chitra. In the movie, his character Rudra is a choreographer. He plays a part in the play too, of Madan, the love of God. Madan in the play is a cosmetic surgeon who transforms the warrior princess Chitrangada into a woman who conforms to the traditional standards. Rudra himself undergoes sex change operation in the movie to turn into a woman.

Rudra Chatterjee falls in love with a man, Partho who is much younger than him. Even though Rudra narrates the ostracism and rejection he has suffered from since he was very young, it is not given much importance. We see loving people around him. The movie focuses on the homosexual relationship and it is depicted in a very natural manner. The main reason for this could be because it is an autobiographical work. As long as sexuality is

confined with the four walls, it is not considered an issue where as his gender identity cannot be kept on a leash. Rudra is not only homosexual, he is also transgender and a cross dresser. His effeminate ways have made him not only a laughing stock but also a loner. He is in his late forties and he still lives with his parents, probably because it will be hard for a man like him to live independently in a country like India, where gay people are constantly harassed. Rudra had had to overcome many obstacles to reach the current state of life he enjoys, but these early struggles are mentioned only in the passing in the movie. The biggest ordeal he confronts is his own fear when he decides to undergo a sex change operation to turn himself into a woman. He has forever been grappling with the notion of gender identification all his life and finally, once he learns that a gay couple cannot adopt a child, he decides to go under the knife.

He had struggled to achieve all that he had, that is a given, but even after being recognised for who he is, he faces further more dilemmas. Discourses and philosophy has limitations when it comes to personal life. Rudra as an adult has loving people around him who respect and try to understand him. The seeds of patriarchy dont bother him anymore but rejection does. The reason why he is not comfortable in his skin is because of the treatment he has received from the society, the reason he cannot adopt a child is because of the laws and the societal standards that he ought to live by. The movie Chitrangada- The crowning wish is quite different from other popular culture depictions, as stereotypes are avoided. The movie is from a homosexual mans point of view. Of course, Rudra is effeminate and he wears kurtis with leggings and has earrings but not only is he gay, he is also a transgender. He was born male, he was brought up as a man, but he wishes to be a woman. He suffers from identity crisis. Gender identity is also a construct,

if women and men did not have such distinct dress codes, he may have never suffered from that. Gender itself is a construct, hence the notion of transgender would have had absolutely no relevance if it were not for the dresscodes of the society. Yearning to be a woman while being is a man is one thing but the mocking and the criticism received for wearing and behaving like a woman is an entirely different issue. Rudra as a transgender, faces more problems as a homosexual. He is completely comfortable about his sexuality but he is confused about his gender identity. He is uncomfortable in the gender role assigned to him since his birth. He has to undergo painful procedures to finally figure it out and finally is relieved when he realizes he does not have to go through all of it. He loses some of his loved ones while going through the changes but is nevertheless happy about that he did not succumb to the pressures of the societys demands he had to fulfil so that he will be considered normal. . Although Rudra, in the beginning of the movie, tells the nurse at the hospital to not call him sir so that he could mentally prepare to become a woman, I have refrained in the essay to call him by feminine pronouns because in the end, he chooses to remain a man.

Gender studies has become the umbrella discourse when it comes to the problems faced by women and the LGBT community. The word gender when heard in any context is taken for granted that it is a feminist issue, and likewise sexuality now implies homosexuality. It is the fight of the oppressed. Most studies on the LGBT issues that come under gender studies are from a feminist perspective. Homosexuality terrifies the patriarchal man and he is thus termed homophobic. In Nivedita Menons essay, How Natural is Normal? Feminism and Compulsory Heterosexuality, she talks about how the notion of

sexuality is a human construct and how the vast networks of controls are required to keep it in place. There are norms for society approved normal conduct such as dress codes, gestures and behavioural codes etc. The question that arises here is whether the LGBT community faces only the same issues women does. Is patriarchy the sole reason for the treatment the LGBT community receive in India? Homosexual men are not considered man enough. A man relying on another man for sexual and emotional needs is frowned upon. Common questions asked to the homosexual couple are who is the husband among you guys and who is the wife or who is the decision maker? These are notions that govern heterosexual relations. To be normalised into the society, homosexuality has to have heterosexual counterparts is every aspect. When the notion of heterosexuality is kept by countless number of rules that oppress women, what shall govern homosexuality which is ironically considered unnatural when heterosexuality, monogamy and the institution of marriage are themselves social constructs? The law and other structures are the supporting pillars of these constructs and homosexuality often does not find a place in these, and when they do, they are deemed as unfit to be considered under the standard code of the system. Around the world, homosexuality is starting to get accepted, it is being normalised into the existing code, much like how left handed people are no longer seen as workers of the devil as they were long time back. Homosexual people are being accepted by the society and this becomes evident by reviewing the stereotypes that are associated to them. Transgender-ness is considered to be a part and parcel of homosexual behaviour. This is a very problematic generalisation. A homosexual person may or may not be transgender. A transgender person need not necessarily be gay. The treatment received by transgendered people does not get as much attention as gay people get, for it is generally considered as something more superficial than homosexuality. While sexuality is a private matter, gender identity is not. To solve the problem of transgender-ness, science has even come up with cosmetic surgery. If homosexuality could have been cured,

they would have tried that too. Science coming up with a solution for transgender is the foremost indicator that it is not considered natural. The major reason why transgender people dont feel comfortable in their own skin is because of the treatment they receive from society. Of course, everybody has the right to choose their sex too, but it requires a great deal of mental preparation. Changing ones sex just so he/she can fit into a society ridden with constructs and institutions is a very ludicrous idea. The effects are permanent, and it may not even provide the person with expected results. Societys ridiculous ideas of standards are restricting them from living a normal life.

Bibliograhy Tagore, Rabindranat, Chitra, a play in one act. Menon, Nivedita, How Natural is Normal? Heterosexuality. Foucault, Michel, Friendship as a way of life.

Feminism

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Compulsory