'Especially at the hands of men.'
Transgender actor Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju -- who is a medical doctor by training -- is getting a lot of recognition for her role in Made In Heaven 2.
"Very often, depictions revolve around caricature-ish portrayals of trans people and our lives are often reduced to surgical transitions and the violence and the blood and the gore. So we're a far, far, cry from normalising trans people," Trinetra tells Subhash K Jha.
How did you bag Meher's role on Made In Heaven 2?
It happened by chance. I was found on Instagram by Casting Directors Nandini (Shrikent) and Karan (Mally), who were kind enough to show my profile to Zoya (Akhtar).
She asked me to self test and then meet a month later that. That would become my first visit to Bombay.
I met Zoya, spoke about the character, and it seemed very clear that she was very open about hearing me out on my lived experiences. She also spoke to other trans women while writing this character of Meher.
I'm just glad that she saw something in me and trusted me with this part to do a good job of it.
I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
Do you connect with Meher's journey as a transgender?
Yes. I connect with Meher's journey a lot.
We have many similarities and differences.
We're different in the sense that she's older, she's a lot more reserved, she has a certain quiet dignity to her in the way that she handles people and situations.
I'm a lot more brazen.
But we're very similar in the sense that we've both seen transphobia in the dating sphere.
We've seen violence.
We've been on the receiving end of violence, especially at the hands of men.
Both of us also have a younger brother that we have a healthy relationship with and healthy relationships with our parents.
I empathise with Meher despite some of those differences because she is human first and trans later.
Everything about her makes her relatable, despite her being trans.
Did you use any of your own experiences to play Meher?
Of course. I was a terrible elder brother and I think it came largely from being bullied and projecting that on to my younger sibling, which was extremely unfair to him.
It's taken years for us to try and build a relationship again.
Like Meher, I do believe that I am a better sister.
What was it like working with the Made In Heaven team, especially Arjun Mathur, Sobhita Dhulipala and Shivani Raghuvanshi, who play your immediate co-stars?
It was wonderful.
They were very warm and welcoming.
I was the youngest.
It was a little intimidating in the beginning because it was a new world, and I come from a very different world, that is medicine.
That world demands different things of the person and to be doing my internship and shooting at the same time -- the entire show was shot, start to finish, during my internship.
So it was mentally and physically exhausting shuffle back and forth from the hospital to the sets.
But my co-actors, especially Neil (Bhoopalam), who plays Danish, my boyfriend on the show, made my life and job so much easier by just being warm and welcoming throughout.
What are your future plans?
My future plans for the time being involve taking a break from medicine.
I am looking forward to improving my skills as an actor and playing all kinds of characters, not necessarily only trans.
I definitely want to drive change and improve representation of trans people in entertainment and diversify the kinds of stories that are told.
Sushmita Sen plays a trans character in Taali. What is your take on that?
Sushmita Sen is an absolute powerhouse of a performer.
I have adored her since I was a child.
I really can't speak for Shreegauri Sawantji, because at the end of the day, Sushmita Sen plays the role of Gauri Sawantji, and Gauri herself has been involved in the process of that story as far as I know.
I wouldn't be the right person to comment on what Gauriji should or should not feel about that portrayal, that's a very personal thing.
But in the bigger picture, at large, I would definitely say that more trans people need to be getting work.
How tough is it for you to normalise your life and career?
I think even the conversation about normalising my specific life and career is a far cry from the reality of the vast majority of the community.
The majority of the community is extremely marginalised and survives largely on begging, sex work and badhai toli.
A good 98 percent of us don't have familial acceptance and support.
I think normalising trans people is still a step away when it comes to the vast majority of the trans community and we're fighting basic battles like literacy, health care, shelter, education and employment.
So, of course, it's difficult to normalise a trans person because very often, depictions revolve around caricature-ish portrayals of trans people and our lives are often reduced to surgical transitions and the violence and the blood and the gore.
So we're a far, far, cry from normalising trans people.