‘Udalazham’: Exploring the life and struggles of a tribal transgender
The two-hour-long Malayalam film tells the story of A. Raju, who was born in a tribal settlement inside Nilambur forest
While the country continues to debate social exclusion and marginalisation of the third gender, the life and struggles of Kerala’s only known tribal transgender, who died seven months ago, is now inspiring a feature film.
The film would be premiered in the week-long Mumbai Film Festival beginning on October 25.
The two-hour-long Malayalam film, Udalazham (Body Deep), tells the story of A. Raju who was born and brought up in Theekkadi tribal settlement located deep inside the Nilambur valley forests. A member of Aranadan aborigine community, Raju’s life was a constant battle against humiliation and abuse by a parochial racist society.
Interestingly, Raju was part of the initial discussions of the cinema and wanted to be an integral part in its making. However, chronic ailments cut short his life at the age of 55.
The film starring top Malayalam artists Indrans, Joy Mathew, Sajitha Madathil, and Anumol, has Wayanad’s celebrated tribal actor Mani donning the lead role of Gulikan who represents Raju, who was brought up as a boy while possessing the body and soul of a girl.
A Paniya tribal from Wayanad, Mani is State award winner for his performance in Mohanlal’s blockbuster Photographer as a child artist. Now 24, this is Mani’s second film. Newcomer Ramya Vatsala is the lead actress.
“The film is indeed a tribute to Raju whom I met about a decade ago. I had done a documentary film on him titled The Last page. Based on his narrations, I had also written his biography, Vipareetham (Opposite), in 2012. The film is mostly based on Vipareetham,” Unnikrishnan Avala, director of the film, told The Hindu.
‘Udalazham’: Exploring the life and struggles of a tribal transgender In the film, Gulikan gets married to Maathi much before they attained adulthood. Dark skinned, fragile, introvert, and vulnerable, his marital life is completely broken after his partner comes to know about his sexual orientation. Gulikan migrates to a nearby city.
Humiliated and abused by a racist society, he then runs for his life. Without a forest to go back to, he has to struggle in a hostile city as a slave, a vagabond and as a gigolo.
Apart from gender equality, Udalazham addresses issues such as tribal alienation, deforestation, drought, poverty, addictions and social stigma.
Source: The Hindu, Sept 26, 2018