In a news that came as a surprise to no one, Akshay Kumar will be portraying a trans woman in an upcoming film titled Laxmmi Bomb. Nay, a trans woman's vengeful ghost. My only question is: Why?
Back in 2016, when the Bollywood superstar played a small role as a gay man in Dishoom, this self-professed gay icon had this to say about the making of the film: “I took turns sitting on the laps of Varun Dhawan and John Abraham but my regret is that the role was a small one or I would have hung out with those beef cakes forever! ”
When it comes to being tone-deaf, Kumar IS THE khiladi. He has come to perfectly personify modern-day NRI jingoism. Whether it’s setting himself on fire for a promo launch or siding with right-wing trolls in the thick of Delhi protests, Akshay Kumar is no stranger to theatrics.
But in recent times, Kumar has tried hard to carve a specific niche for himself. Be it Pad Man, Mission Mangal or Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, his roles as a cis-gendered goofball of a man who comes to the rescue of other marginalised voices has managed to impress only other cis-gendered, privileged dudes. If you’re an oppressed minority, there’s probably a chance that Kumar has played you in a film.
We often see this in Hollywood too, where a white straight lead is what the other black or gay or trans folks need to be alleviated in life. Because come awards season, they get their moment to shine. Remember domestic abuser Sean Penn winning the Oscar for playing a gay man in Milk? Happy times.
I honestly try and avoid watching Akshay Kumar films as much as possible, mostly because “gay” has always been the punchline in the 20 Housefull movies that are out there. And also because Aamir Khan has pretty much perfected that genre dedicated to social causes, and RajKummar Rao now follows closely. Dear goofy ol’ Akshay, however, only plays himself in every film. And that is my biggest fear for his upcoming role.
Announced just last week, this film is already generating a mixed reaction from the denizens of the Internet. Mainly because the tagline of the film on the poster is: Jiss din sach mein mere saamne bhoot aaya na… toh maa kasam chudiya pehen lunga (The day I see a ghost for real, I swear on my mother, I’ll wear bangles that day). So all this hullabaloo over Akshay finally portraying a progressive role is all for naught, because much like any film, the jokes come out of the fact that “man in sari = scary”.
For the record, I am not just talking out of my ass. I’ve seen the original film this one’s based on, and might I add, I got to watch it at a men’s barbershop surrounded by middle-aged Daddies. Not particularly a forward thinking group. Through the course of the film, there were visible jeers and words like “chakka” and “saala hijra ” were thrown around. Maybe the director has the right intentions in mind, but never in the execution is it visible.
I reached out to my friend Adhyasa Jeet to ask her how she felt about this portrayal on the screen (can’t call it the big screen any more). “It’s ridiculous at best,” she says. “Now I’ve had arguments with others over whether a cis man should play the role of a trans person. Some would say if Eddie (Redmayne) can play The Danish Girl as a cis-het man, why can’t Akshay? I beg to differ here. The Danish Girl is the biography of the first transsexual woman in the history to go under the knife. The message such a casting sends is that dressing up as a woman is an "act" and not a respectable identity that occupies public spaces. The essence of transness is all gone when you confuse gender identity with cross dressing. Akshay Kumar is cross dressing for this movie. That's not the life of hijra women.”
Much like with Ayushmann Khurrana in Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan, if you are just doing these roles for your résumé to glow, then you aren’t doing justice to the people who you are pretending to speak for. Honestly we queer people can speak for ourselves, so just shut up and hand over the microphone to us. If the end goal is people commending your acting chops, then don’t do it. Matt peheno chudiya, please.
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