“There was no malice for them.”: Ayushmann Khurrana admits to decline an invitation to LGBTQ community event

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, Ayushmann Khurrana's latest film, has raised a debate about transgender representation in Bollywood

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, Ayushmann Khurrana’s latest film, has raised a debate about transgender representation in Bollywood. While some have commended filmmaker Abhishek Kapoor’s film for its sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of the gay community, others have criticised it for its commercial slant and the fact that the transgender role is performed by actress Vaani Kapoor, a cisgender woman.

In an interview with Film Companion’s Anupama Chopra, Ayushmann, who has made a career out of making films about taboo issues and marginalised communities, discussed the debate.

Ayushman, first became aware of the trans community when he was 13 years old, he claimed. He recalled an incident in which his father referred a girl who identified as male to a gynaecologist. The doctor, on the other hand, ignored the girl and advised her to seek psychological care instead. The young lady eventually travelled to Mumbai for sex reassignment surgery and is now happily married.

When it comes to understanding transgender and bigger LGBTQ problems, Ayushmann said he has steadily matured as a person. “Empathy has always been there, since childhood. But yes, it takes time to… you know, we’ve grown a lot. We’re learning every single day. We’ve evolved so much as a society.” he said.

He went on to say that he was invited to an event by the gay community when he was in college. “I just said no, but there was no malice towards them. There was that fear, ‘ki mere sath kya karenge’ (I was afraid of what they’ll do to me). I am a straight guy. ‘With due respect, I can’t come.”

Abhishek Kapoor had previously stated that he would not cast a trans actor in the film. “We went through many avenues and there was a thought about casting a trans person but you know I find everyone is so fascinated just by actors. Why is it that everything is legitimised by an actor? Why can’t a trans person write the film? Why can’t a trans person direct the film? First of all, this fascination is incorrect. Films are not made by actors, they are made by filmmakers and writers. Eventually, there is a representation by an individual actor, but I try to see above this because there is a story to be told. You have to reach out to people at large by taking the story to them and I thought this is the best way to take this story there. When you talk to someone, you have to talk to them in their language.”

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