Director Abhishek Kapoor, 50, is known to most people simply as “Gattu”. Where does this come from? “Courage,” he smiled.
‘Guts’ means courage. And it certainly took courage to make movies like Fitoor, Rock On, Kai Po Che and Kedarnath. Movies that weren’t quite Bollywood’s usual fare at the time, but did just as well.
But behind the “guts”, there is usually an “intuition”. And there must have been some intuition in action when Abhishek stepped out of character in 2017 and agreed to meet Simran Sahni, a woman from Gurgaon – and a complete stranger – who had flown to Mumbai to pitch an idea that ultimately led to the making of the filmmaker’s latest adventure, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, his bravest film to date.
two of a kind
Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is a romantic comedy with an unusual twist.
“When I met Simran, I didn’t take her very seriously,” Abhishek says of the idea behind the film, which has earned him and his actors praise. “She told me a thought and then added the transgender angle and I was quite surprised. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in how she wanted to tell the story, but the trans angle, it really stuck with me, so I asked him to park the idea with me.
Simran, 46, is the mother of twin girls Saher and Reyza, 25, who both transitioned as teenagers. One an architect and the other in marketing, the twins themselves had no idea their mother had met Abhishek.
“I actually went to meet a lot of directors,” says Simran. “Most of them said, ‘No, that’s too bold.’Humein artistic cinema no banana.’ ‘Humein rewards circuit mein nahi jaana.’ But I thought: it’s normal, and it’s as normal as you make it.
What convinced Abhishek to listen to Simran? “You know, we take it for granted that our minds and bodies are in sync. We don’t even think about it,” he says. “But what if they weren’t?” What if it was so traumatic, but no one outside could understand it? And people who go through this journey, go through gender change and transition, they go through a lot. It’s such an internal struggle.
The idea that Simran had suggested stayed with Abhishek for a few years; he created Kedarnath around this time, but couldn’t let go of what Simran told him.
“I didn’t even think she thought it would be done,” he says. “But she needs her voice heard, you know. Somehow I think I didn’t choose the script; he chose me.
Mainstream mainstream media has always had highly problematic transgender representation, and for a director to venture into this uncharted territory was a challenge. But Abhishek and his team have done their research.
“We realized from the start that it was a very responsible company,” acknowledges Abhishek. “We met a lot of trans people. I had my team of writers – Supratik Sen and Tushar Paranjape – and we started with different avenues to set the story. Eventually, we settled on a gym, because that’s where the guys work out, and it’s all about muscle and testosterone. And ultimately the transition is to raise or lower your testosterone, so that was the right arena.
One thing, however, hit him hard. “It’s so hard for someone to feel so much pain,” he said. do for you? It’s almost divine.
Abhishek mentions a former colleague who has become a man and says, “They are all spiritually evolved individuals, because they have been through something. They have been through a lot of suffering, so when they meet other people, they are compassionate. But at the same time, they are also strong; it is not a question of imposing one’s strength, it is a question of preserving it. So they know how to be compassionate, but they won’t let you cross that line. This is the best way to manage a relationship, for any individual, whether trans or not.
Open hearts, open minds
The twins, says Abhishek, are his muses. “Both girls are fabulous. They are such New Age and modern individuals. They are actually beyond their sex. They are having such a good time; they are in their body now. They are very advanced people.
With a supportive mother, a loving family, an embracing community, successful careers and big dreams, Saher and Reyza are the embodiment of modern India. Yet, like any other journalist, we want to ask the important questions. What about their relationships?
“I was in a relationship, but not anymore,” Reyza says. “It was like any other normal relationship. Nothing to set me apart or him apart; I was in a relationship, but now I’m enjoying my single life!
“And I’ve never been in a relationship, because… I don’t know, men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” Saher exclaims. “I mean, I need a man who is emotionally mature enough to have all my drama, and that just never happened.”
She goes on with a relatable statement, “Also, I fall in love with toxic weirdos.”
Since meeting Simran, Saher and Reyza, since meeting several trans people and their partners, whether LGBTQ or not, Abhishek says his biggest learning from making this movie might be that “people fall in love with people. I’m married now, but if I was alone and looking for a mate, and a trans person came into my life, and they were like some of these people I’ve met, would I would join? The truth is, honestly, yes I would.
Has all the research paid off? Does he think making his film started a conversation, or maybe opened doors for more representation, whether on-screen or off-screen?
“It’s already done, right? he contradicts. “I mean I’m here to do an interview for brunch and you introduce us; I think we have arrived.
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From HT Brunch, January 16, 2022
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