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March 4, 2002
Meet Shabnam Mausi
Pooja Bhatt's Tamanna was a real life story of a eunuch called Tiku, played by Paresh Rawal.
Now, five years later, another film will depict the life of a eunuch: Shabnam Mausi. Produced by Sudesh Bhosle and J Manoj, and directed by Yogesh Bharadwaj, the film has Ashutosh Rana playing the eunuch.
A Member of the Legislative Assembly in Madhya Pradesh, the emotional yet humorous [real life] Shabnam Mausi is bitter about the way eunuchs have been treated by people and the government. "The Indian Government has done nothing for eunuchs. They have worked for the betterment of backward classes and poor people. Nothing for eunuchs, who are always treated as objects of humiliation.
"I have grown up being called a hijra. That word was like a thorn, which kept piercing me. But now, people respect me," adds Shabnam.
Ashutosh Rana couldn't be happier about this film: "The script is brilliant and the character interesting. I have never had a role that is undefined. If I call myself human, I am undefined. But the moment I call myself a male, limitations crop up. This is a role which is totally undefined, where tagging a pronoun to a person might cause embarrassment.
"Besides, this is a success story. We accept a mentally or physically challenged child. A eunuch is always discarded. But society has accepted Shabnam Mausi by making her an MLA, a guardian of the society. Such is the irony of life."
Born as Chandra Prakash in a Brahmin family in 1955, Shabnam Mausi was handed over to eunuchs after her family discarded her. She took up acting in Hindi films to earn a living. She has featured in Amar Akbar Anthony, Kunwara Baap and Janta Ka Hawaldar. Later, Shabnam Mausi moved to Madhya Pradesh and took up social work. Shabnam later stood for the State Legislative Elections in 1999 and won.
"The political scenario in MP was bad --- ministers did not help the society at all. So people thought "Nar ko dekh liya, nari ko dekh liya, ab hijre ko dekh lenge [We saw men and women, now let's see what a eunuch can do]," laughs Shabnam.
"I feel good that a film is being made on me," adds Shabnam. "People have always looked down on eunuchs. We have never got sympathy. If my story benefits even one eunuch, I will be very happy. I have watched Ashutosh Rana's Sangharsh. He is a good actor, very original and realistic. I like him. He asked me for blessings, too."
Director Yogesh Bharadwaj observes, "I selected Ashutosh Rana to play her character because only he can do total justice to the role. In fact, if he had refused, I would not have cast anyone else. It was him or no one."
This is Bharadwaj's second film. He was chief assistant to J P Dutta in Kshatriya, Border and Refugee. His directorial debut Border Hindustan is slated for release this May.
"I had read about Shabnam Mausi in the papers and thought it would make a very interesting film," Bharadwaj continues. "So I studied her and then went to Bhopal, where she lives and discussed it with her. She agreed immediately."
Says Shabnam Mausi, "Filmmaker Manoj Jaiswal was the first to tell me about the project. I will be getting 15 per cent of the royalty."
Shabnam Mausi was educated up to std VIII, but is fluent in 14 Indian languages. She has trained under the late Guru Gopi Krishna in classical dance. She even performed on stage after she was appointed MLA. Given a chance, she would willingly act in this film.
"I have met Shabnam Mausi five or six times, but I talk to her daily to get to know her better. I am reading up on mythology. I have also met psychologists to learn more about human nature. Besides, my wife Renuka [Shahane] has a degree in psychology, so I ask her a lot of questions," says Rana. "I know classical dancing and will definitely dance."
Shooting for the film starts April 2. "I want to finish the film as soon as I can, maybe within six months. Such a good subject should not be delayed," says Bharadwaj.
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