Politics Will Always Remain a Part of My Cinema: Neeraj Ghaywan

After taking the world by storm with Masaan, director Neeraj Ghaywan’s 3-minute ad-film tells the real-life story of Gauri Sawant, a transgender mother, and her struggle to bring up her adopted daughter. Ghaywan’s ad has touched a chord in every human heart. Gauri Sawant is indeed the hero of the moment, feted honoured and adulated for her courage and tenacity.

Neeraj Ghaywan, DirectorGauri is enjoying every minute of the attention. When the concept was tossed at me, I was immediately taken up by her story. I treated the story like  a narrative for a film. But I cast the real Gauri in the film.

Gauri has become a star after the ad went viral. However, be warned, the girl playing Gauri’s daughter in the ad is not her real daughter.

Neeraj GhaywanGauri was very clear on this. She didn’t want her real daughter to be exposed on a public platform. We respected her wishes and worked our way around her reservations.

“We tend to stereotype transgenders. See them as loud and crass, clapping and singing… To some extent, they’re themselves responsible for that image. In this film, through the poignant story of Gauri Sawant, I wanted to humanise the community. I wanted to show that under all the bravado and the posturing, they are normal people, with nurturing qualities.” The film has succeeded in humanising the trans-gender community beyond all expectations.

Neeraj gives Gauri Sawant the credit for the success of the film.

Neeraj GhaywanOnce she was in, she surrendered herself completely to our vision. She gave an option as to how she’d play herself on screen. She said she could either be the stereotypical hijda or a sober subtle graceful mother. We went with the latter option. Thankfully…

Neeraj stresses the nurturing quality in the transgender-mother. “Gauri Sawant has not only raised a daughter single-handedly, she is also a part of an organisation that takes care of AIDS patients. And believe it or not, Gauri saves and preserves turtles. She has rescued over a 1000 turtles so far and put them back into ponds. I think she identifies with the endeavour to protect endangered species.”

The filmmaker, who is now writing his second feature film and has completed another short-film on the theme of patriarchal prejudices, feels for marginalised sections of our society.

Neeraj GhaywanIf you see Masaan, that too is about people who are pushed to the edges. Politics will always remain a part of my cinema. Not as electoral politics, but as a reminder of how politics affects the lives of ordinary people.

Gauri Sawant’s story is, in that sense, a mirror of the gender politics that stymies lives that do not conform to convention.

Neeraj Ghaywan Her story is unbelievable. When her father, a cop in Maharashtra, found out that Gauri was a transgender, he threw her out of the house. He’s a cop and she still loves him dearly.

For the final shot of the viral ad-film, Gauri had to express heartbreaking grief as she’s shown leaving her daughter at a boarding school.

For this shot, Neeraj had to manipulate real tears out of Gauri.

Neeraj GhaywanI asked her to remember any incident from her life that broke her heart. She remembered how one day she suddenly saw her father across the road. She wanted to rush and hug him but she couldn’t. The memory of that moment served my purpose. I don’t believe glycerine tears work. At least not in my films.