‘Nawa-Spirit of Atey’: A rare story of gender inclusiveness
IMPHAL | Sep 1
‘Nawa-Spirit of Atey’, a short documentary based on the life of a 13-year old school going transboy, is an attempt at addressing gender issues by portraying them in a wider canvas of cinema.
Directed by trans activist, Santa Khurai along with Amar Maibam, the film runs 10 minutes and 20 seconds,and narrates Atey’s childhood as he gradually realised his innate gender in a conducive environment.
The film is the second work of the trans activist. Her debut film ‘Unheard Voice’ is also a gender issue film based on “Nupa Maibi” community in the Manipuri society.
Throughout the film, Atey is shown how he loves to play and mingle with boys despite being a female. However, unlike most families, his parents do not suppress the gender nonconforming behaviour of the child by being supportive.
Atey once refrained from going to school as he was given girls’ uniform. After the headmaster of the school learnt about the reason, he was given boys’ uniform and he continued going to school. A compelling scene, which forays to highlight the problems faced by the transgender community in continuing their education in face of social stigmas.
Expressing his gender orientation, Atey in a hard hitting line says, “I don’t even want to touch a ‘Phanek’. If I’m left with nothing to wear when my clothes are being washed, I wear my father’s ‘Khudei’ (loincloth).”
It is important to note that despite his nonconformity, Atey grows up in a conducive environment. His mother, Indrani during her interview in the film says that she will not oppose even if her child decides to marry a woman.
Very often in many societies, transgender are being excluded and ostracised by parents and communities. In contrast, Atey’s working class family without any awareness of gender education or child psychology allowed him to be himself, and to express himself freely.
The Manipur premiere of the film was screened Saturday last at the Manipur University Court Hall in association with Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), which was followed by a post-screening discussion.
Santa told this daily that she decided to do films as genders issues are not addressed in its entirety in the media. “Our stories are diluted and we become an object. Even in mainstream films, we are portrayed as a comic character almost every time”, she said.
Santa continued, “In the real world, most of the transgender are being used by family members as money minting machines only. We are excluded from decision making process both in the family and the society at large.”
“As Atey’s mother looked upon Atey as a child and accepted her nonconforming behaviour, I’m convinced the Meetei society had a belief system of treating everyone equally”, she said, adding how it had gone astray in the modern society should be traced and re-instilled once again.
Co-director, Amar Maibam said that it was his first time to work with transgender and was a learning experience. “I got much opportunity of exploring into their lives, which are often neglected”, he said.
Reader, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Manipur University, Dr. Thiyam Bharat said that the film screening was a first step in bringing about a transgender inclusive society.
There are more than 5000 transgender population in the state out of which more than 3600 are transwomen, he pointed out. “They are the excluded from the society most of the time. We have already started research in this field. But without their participation, we are helpless”, he said and sought cooperation from the transgender community.
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