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The world needs to be aware of the struggles faced by the transgender people: Deepa Mehta
A still from I am Sirat, Image Credit: TIFF

The world needs to be aware of the struggles faced by the transgender people: Deepa Mehta

| @indiablooms | 30 Sep 2023, 10:37 pm

Caught between duty and self-determination, Sirat Taneja, a transgender woman of Delhi, has to lead a dual life. At home, she has to act as her conservative mother’s son,  while outside,  she can be a woman enjoying with her friends. She also works in a government office. The documentary I Am Sirat  is a collaborative effort between  Canada-based transnational filmmaker Deepa Mehta and Taneja focusing on the troubling and complex duality of this existence. After the Red Carpet event at the Toronto International Film Festival recently, TWF correspondent Asha Bajaj met with Deepa Mehta and Sirat Taneja to discuss the documentary

Excerpts of the interview:

To Deepa Mehta: This documentary is devoted to the poignant story of Sirat Taneja. What led you to construct the film around Sirat’s life?

Deepa Mehta: This is Sirat’s story and I let her continue telling it the way she wanted.  We are very good friends. I have known her for the last four years and we previously worked together on a film called Laila and came to know about her very well. Although she is fearless, she is having a difficult time with her dual existence. To this day she is still caught between her traditional mother and her need for self-determination. She approached me and wanted me to produce this documentary so that she could articulate about her struggles of being in the transgender world. The world needs to be aware of the struggles faced by the transgender people.

Sirat Taneja: I have been struggling in my home where my mother can’t accept the idea of a trans daughter. I cannot even get dressed as myself in my own bedroom. I have rented a space nearby to store my clothes and makeup. I wanted to bring out my story to the world and let them know who I am. I did not want to do it alone and needed some support and therefore I approached Deepa ma’am who is like my second mother. She accepts me as who I am.  I can confide in her my thoughts and feelings openly . She readily agreed to my proposal.

To Sirat:  Did you have to face any challenges as far as your role is concerned since the story is based on a script?

Sirat: I had to face some challenges while shooting to get the right lighting effect. Due to the sun on the phone often my eyes would get closed and I couldn’t tell the story my way. Sometimes,  dust  would appear on my face as well as on the camera of the phone with which Deepa was documenting my story. She  would remind me repeatedly that there should neither be dust on my phone through which I was trying to narrate my story, nor should there be sunlight on my face. Apart from this technical challenge I did not face any other challenge.

Deepa Mehta with the team at TIFFDeepa Mehta with the team at TIFF

Deepa: Sirat filmed herself in Punjabi and we had to get the dialogue translated into English. It was edited by Kabir Singh Chowdhry.

To Deepa: How much time did it take for you to complete this film?

Deepa: It took between two to three months to complete this film. We started documenting the story in November, 2022. I told Sirat that it is her film and she would be the narrator and she would be filming yourself. There would be no extra lighting nor camera and only natural  makeup. 

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