Taali, the upcoming biographical web series based on transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant’s life, will star Sushmita Sen. A former Miss Universe and a renowned actress, Sen took to her Instagram to unveil the series, which is titled Taali.
Shreegauri Sawant was one of the petitioners of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), in which the Supreme Court recognized transgender as the third gender.
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The news of this casting has received divided reactions from audiences. Many believe that a trans actress should play the role instead.
Transgender actress Kalki Subramaniam told BBC, “The issue is that there aren’t enough diverse, complex roles for transgender people as it is. The roles we are offered are stereotyped: the sex worker, the background character blessing a wedding, the loud person who curses.” Transgender actors often turn to sex work due to a lack of mainstream roles.
On the other hand, some people from within the LGBTQ+ community are in favour of the decision. One of India’s best-known transgender actresses, Anjali Ameer, spoke in support of the news. “This casting of someone as famous as Sushmita Sen is a good thing for the transgender community,” Anjali told BBC. It means our stories are becoming mainstream. When our stories enter more houses and people can see us as human beings, more roles will follow for us.” Shreegauri Sawant herself has approved the casting of Sen. “Sushmita Sen portraying me in Taali is a big win for the trans community.” Pune Mirror quoted her.
This is not the first time Bollywood has faced backlash for casting cisgender actors in transgender roles. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi also received similar flack for casting Vijay Raaz as a transgender character. Many criticized Laxmii, the 2020 horror-comedy film starring Akshay Kumar for the same reason. Western cinema also has a long history of snubbing LGBTQ+ actors in favour of cisgender and heterosexual actors. Recently, Oscar-Winning Actor Eddie Redmayne told the Sunday Times that he regrets playing the role of transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl.