After the trailer for Gangubai Kathiawadi was released earlier this month, many seemed displeased with Vijay Raaz being called in to play a trans woman’s role in the film. Vijay, a cis-gender man in real life, plays Razia Bai, Gangubai’s rival in the film.
A few people took to social media and raised questions over the casting, asking why wasn’t a trans woman considered for a role. Bollywood already lacks opportunities and roles for transpersons and even homosexual actors. The film’s lead actor, Alia Bhatt was asked about the same during a recent interview.
Also read: Vijay Raaz as trans woman in Gangubai Kathiawadi sparks debate among fans: ‘Transpeople don’t get a chance’
Speaking to Deadline, Alia said that who is cast in which role is just the director’s perspective. “I have heard this conversation various times for different films. While I do understand where they’re coming from, I feel like it’s up to the director and their vision. It’s not there to offend anyone, maybe the director found it interesting to have an actor like Vijay Raaz, who identifies as male, play a trans character. The audience has never seen him that way, you see the actor and the ability to transform within that person. I think that’s a better perspective, but I do understand where people are coming from,” she said.
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Gangubai Kathiawadi is about a madam of a brothel who rises to great power in Mumbai’s Kamathipura neighbourhood. Speaking about taking on the role and whether it made her nervous Alia said, “Yes, but it’s not that sex workers haven’t been in our cinema in the past. It’s not the most commercial subject, but there have been films made on this subject. I think if you give the audience a really good character, where they come from or who they are becomes secondary. I wasn’t reluctant at all, at the heart of this film are a lot of powerful social points. It’s an underdog story, a story of struggle. Wherever you come from, I think everyone can connect to a story of rising from struggle.”
Gangubai Kathiawadi releases in cinemas on February 25. It is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.