Piyush Roy Introduces Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish by Rituparno Ghosh

On Monday 5th May Piyush Roy gave the following introduction to the Indian film Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish (2012).  It is one of contemporary Indian cinema’s most empathetic engagements with gender expression and trans-experience.

A son contemplates changing his gender because it will allow him to adopt a baby with his male lover. But how does he take into confidence his parents, and the society around. His mother offers, “I gave birth to this body, which is yours… I have a right to know, whatever goes on in this body. I have a right to know, if it is changing, transforming…”

Chitrangada The Crowning Wish by Rituparno Ghosh

Merging myth with reality, Chitrangada by Rituparno Ghosh, (arguably the most influential filmmaker to come out of Bengali cinema since Satyajit Ray), throws up a lot of questions, answers a few, and leaves most open to interpretations. How difficult is it for parents to come to terms with a homosexual descendant? How difficult is it for a gay man to be told time and again that he ought to see a doctor to cure himself? And how traumatically hollow is it for a male couple to feel that they will never be allowed to adopt a baby even when they know that biologically they can never have a living product of their love?

Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish, follows a ‘film-within-film’ narrative structure, where the film-within is Rabindranath Tagore’s epic dance drama Chitrangada – the saga of a Manipuri princess, who was brought up as a son by her father, but after meeting prince Arjuna (from the Mahabharata), desired to reincarnate in her primordial gender state. Rituparno dabbles with Tagore’s interpretation of the ‘Kurup-Surup’ dichotomy, asking more importantly the question of a ‘WISH’ – and the birth, death and life of it! The film’s protagonist, while directing Tagore’s Chitrangada, interprets it as the ‘story of a wish’ – “Chitrangada’s wish about her gender versus her father’s wish…” But do we act or enact gender? And is performative gender an illusion?

Prof. Arnab Bhattacharjee, School of Management & Languages, Heriot-Watt University lead the post screening discussion which you can listen to hear: