The media rarely portrays a transgender woman accurately. In fact, they are consistently shown in a negative light. However, “Njan Marykutty” released in June 2018 is a Malayalam movie which delivered a pleasant surprise during Pride month. The role of Marykutty was played by actor Jayasurya. The movie was critically and commercially acclaimed.
This movie explored relevant themes through the course of its narrative. It began with Mathukutty explaining her decision to leave home and to transition to “Marykutty”. The name of the movie itself translates to “I am Marykutty”. It highlighted the trauma inflicted by family and society, without invoking pity. She resisted the patriarchy which the police sought to enforce upon her. Marykutty was an empowered young transgender woman who fought for her rights. Citing NALSA versus The Union of India (please refer to the resources), the movie also explored her difficulties in obtaining government identification cards, and access to public spaces such as toilets and government jobs.
A large portion of the movie revolves around her struggles to become a police woman, much like the celebrated K. Prithika Yashini (Transgender) versus The Chairman, Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board case (please refer to the resources). The movie acknowledged the requirement of relaxation of admissibility criteria for the community. With the help of supportive friends, she was able to bypass all objections to her application for the post. She crossed numerous social and administrative hurdles in the process. She was finally admitted to the post of a police inspector.
This movie is not without its shortcomings. Marykutty’s part is played by a biological man, instead of casting a transgender woman. This might have resulted in denying the community such scarce opportunities. Recently, Scarlett Johannson was criticized for playing the role of a transgender man. However, Jayasurya insisted that he did so to do justice to the role, citing difficulties people face in acting even parts that ring true of them.
Other criticism include lack of exploration of other gender identities. It restricts itself to transgender women. Marykutty also appears to be privileged and educated. She had resigned from a multi-national company in Chennai. The movie does not acknowledge the harsh realities of most transgender women. The movie ignores their dependence on begging and sex work. Instead, Marykutty is shown to work at several establishments, and staying with a friend or at rehabilitation centres.
Nevertheless, Njan Marykutty was a positive step in acceptance of transgender women in mainstream cinema. Marykutty stresses on being a humanist, rather than a feminist. This reflects in one of her statements, “This is neither the world of men, nor women, it is the world of talents”. This movie seeks to annihilate gender and gender stereotypes. It is a good starting point for further exploration of gender and sexuality. Watch the trailer of the movie here.