জেনানা by বর্ষালি চ্যাটার্জ্জী
Why do some men live the life of women?
You might have seen them asking money from passengers in express trains or from car drivers at busy intersections in our cities. You might have also seen them extorting money from new fathers and their families. They are all men with different identities. They sound harsh to very harsh with thick voice, they have abuses almost always on their lips and most often their targets are other men. They are mostly dressed like women but some of them may have clearly visible shaved moustaches telling that they are males.
Why do some men choose to live like women do? They embrace an identity of Hijra or Chhakka as popularly known in the society. We from the mainstream society know them only as chhakka and nothing else. But they different categories Chhinni, chhibri or Aqua (ছিন্নি, ছিবড়ি বা আকুয়া). Jenana (জেনানা) are those who live like women in-spite of they being males (they do not remove their organs but still become hijras).
The movie Jenana is about a simple village man who lost his job in his village and ended up in Kolkata in the hope of earning money and have a decent life. He had a wife and a child in his village and didn’t know anything else to survive in his village. There was no other job for him there. The survival of his family was extremely difficult, his new born child was without food and they were fasting almost everyday.
This was a situation when another man who went to Kolkata after losing his job in the village came back and created a rosy picture about his urban life and earning potential in Kolkata. Somu (the hero) gets lured into Kolkata only to face the harsh realities of a cruel city. He ended up being without job, shelter, food and family in Kolkata. Such cruel living conditions forces any person to turn to crimes and Somu was no exception. But he got caught in his first pickpocket attempt that prevented him from committing any more crimes. He started living on the food waste thrown out to the dustbins and fought with street dogs for food.
That was the time when he met with an accident and people from hijra community rescued him. Rest was history. A man who completely hated hijras – slowly found all his hopes only in their lifestyle. It was good money but some unnatural existence for him. Very far from realities, very far from his sexual identities, very far from his family and kid.
It was then he understood that not all hijras were transgenders. Some of them were maleds who dressed like women (cross dressers). They lived like a bisexual person.
Somu became Sumana in his new community. Sumana learnt dancing and all other nakhras of hijra community. He learnt to accept men as his sexual partner even when his sexual identity or orientation was not changed. But money changes everything – his inability to earn money needed for the survival of his family and himself forced him to an identity he never related to. He learnt the sad realities of lives of other males in the Hijra community too. Some had faced harsh realities of organ mafia that sold organs of boys.
All these men who were forced to accept a new identity not of their choice – an identity of a prostitute, a transgender, a namard (impotent), a chhakka or a hijra had a sordid story to tell. Most often their lost identities came at a very high cost that even their high income couldn’t compensate. The movie is only an attempt to address the issues of these men who in-spite of being males were forced to adopt a lifestyle contrary to their bodily integrity, mental well-being and spiritual beliefs.
Even though the movie is a curtain raiser of a new thought process, its direction, cinematography and script is average to below average. Most often the lead actors are found to be overacting or putting in fake emotions. Very often the anger shown by Somu or Sumana was too flashy or fake. The childhood romance shown between Somu and his beau Mala was also poorly scripted and acted. Many may also find the movie very boring. The subject, even though a very off-beat topic, does not excite the audience. Coupled with this was poor acting and direction that made people brand it as a slow paced boring movie. No one can brand it as an art film either, because it lacked strong screenplay, or didn’t leave the audience with a deep thought in their mind.
There is no doubt that this movie brings out the unnoticed pain of a section of our male population the Hijras. May be this will open up new discussion in social circles about them and will make the society more open to their issues. Very often such issues exist because there is no welfare for the men in our society. A discussion towards this will surely help this section of males.