After a long time, young and educated cinema enthusiasts along with working class people are crowding the cinema hall to watch Noman Robin’s Common Gender. Bangladesh is home to about 30,000 – 1,50,000 transgender people, locally known as hijras. [Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News, 1 October 2011]. Their biologocal characteristic of being born as a male child and then growing like a girl is looked up as a shame by society, even by their own families. Gradually, there starts a life of humiliation and deprivation that ends up in ousting them from their own homes and society. These people are deprived of their basic human rights and live by begging, dancing, singing and blessing the new born babies and the newly-wed couples. They are normal human beings like any of us, but prejdices prevent us from regarding them as such. Awareness raising is urgent for all of us to change our mind-set about them. Common Gender the film can play an important role in bringing about that necessary change in the country.
Through this film Director Noman Robin shows the enormous sufferings hijras go through in our society. There is a love story in it, but it goes beyond that that puts a big question mark before our civility, liberalism progressiveness, all fashions for a petty bourgeois social being. Therefore, when Sanjoy (Joy Raj) brings home his hijra friend Susmita (Saju Khadem), his parents are shocked and the hijra friend embarrassed. The same father who taught Snajoy all his life that equality should be the highest ideal of a human being, that humans must not be discriminated on the basis of religion or caste and that every human being should be loved and respected. Even to that idealist parents, Susmita is nothing but a hijra. At one time, even Sanjoy became too angry and abused her by calling her a hijra. She took her life to get free of the agonies in this world.
The hijra played by Dilip Chakrabarty was not allowed to meet his mother in his own home, rather beaten and thrown away by his brother. While wandering in the street, he came upon a working mother (Doly Jahur) affectionately feeding her small boy. The hijra requested her to play the role of his mother for a little while, which she did. The extraordinary way Dilip acted in this scene made the audience stunned, their eyes welling up; a pin-drop silence fell in the hall. The audience came out with the resonance of Dilip’s heartrending cry in their hearts, ‘Tell me mother, once again, come in son, I’ve cooked rice for you. Have your meal, my son.’
This is a small-budget film, but it boldly carries a social message that is big and able to move the audience, which is missing for long in our cinema. Dedicated to Zahir Raihan, this film is good enough to bring the educated class back into cinema halls. Putting aside the weaknesses in a cinematic sense, this is a very entertaining movie with a strong social message that aims to make social cohesion stronger and teaches a viewer to respect every human being whether s/he is like him/her or not. Our entertainment is not all this film aims to; it is to be seen now what steps our government takes for the transgender people in the country.
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