Vancouver Queer Film Fest: Hijra struggle gathers momentum in Queens! Dance of Destiny
A film by David Atkins. In Hindi with English subtitles.
Anyone who's spent a fair amount of time in Mumbai has probably encountered a pack of Hijras harassing passersby for money.
These eunuchs are among the most despised underclass in India's most glamorous city, as much for their aggressive begging as for their gender expression.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Bollywood films have traditionally mocked them.
Queens! Destiny of Dance, written and directed by David Atkins, attempts to change that perception in a fantastical film full of surprises.
Starring Seema Biswas (Midnight's Children) as the housemistress Amma, along with a large number of hijras, it's set in a luxurious palace compound where these transwomen have created their own community.
Amma's favourite, Mukta, is a hulking, often brooding, and exceptionally talented dancer who fled an abusive father.
Mukta's overwrought acting coupled with an unrealistic plot line and melodramatic editing give the first section of the movie a campy feel—almost like a bad Akshay Kumar comedy.
But the arrival of Nandani, a gorgeous and angelic teenager, alters the dynamic, particularly as she begins supplanting Mukta as the new object of Amma's affection.
Much to my surprise, I began to care about Mukta's fate about a third of the way in after initially writing off this film. And by the end, it's hard not to be bewitched by how this triangle is settled beween Amma, Mukta, and Nandani.
Queens! Destiny of Dance isn't subtle about highlighting the perils of discrimination. Of course, Bollywood is rarely known for understatement unless it's a film starring Aamir Khan.
And for those who love colourful Indian saris and luscious dance scenes, there's plenty of that to go around.
Queens! Destiny of Dance screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival at the Vancity Theatre on Monday (August 19) at 8:30 p.m.
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