From Cannes Film Festival to bagging the SXSW Film Festival 2023 Audience Award, A Place Of Our Own (Ek Jagah Apni), this independent Indian picture has created a buzz abroad. The movie is a progressive champion of the LGBTQIA+ family which pays homage to transgender people in India.
In this sensitive portrayal of two Indian trans women based in Bhopal, the film focuses on the socio-economic forces that make life difficult for sexual minorities. Laila and Roshni, who live together as close friends, ask their landlord for assistance when they are threatened by a man outside their flat. Refusing to deal with the real cause of the problem, the landlord turns them out, sparking a difficult and frustrating journey to find a new home.
The film is helmed and backed by Ektara Collective. This is an independent, autonomous, non-funded group of people who seek to combine creative efforts with trained and untrained filmmakers to helm projects on respective realities and experiences. A Place Of Our Own developed as a result of the Collective’s conversations among themselves, especially regarding the larger representation of the community in Indian cinema. It marks the debuts of Manisha Soni and Muskan, who introspect on their actual journeys as transgender women in their performances. They also collaborated with the filmmaking team on the script-writing process. The venture kick-started in July 2021, just after the lockdown.
The shooting occurred on location, resulting in an inevitable crowd peeking. Being first-time actors and since they face prejudice, this added to their nervousness. However, Script Writer Rinchin recalls a ‘Kohinoor’ moment during an important and intense scene when the actors received a standing ovation from the onlookers and the crew present.
Muskan says: “This was my first acting experience and I really enjoyed it. I hope that this encourages people to cast transactors in trans and other roles because that is what true inclusion would be. Like all first-time actors, I was nervous but slowly my confidence grew and I got more comfortable with the camera. I would like to further explore my talent and I hope to find more opportunities to do so in the future.”
It recently played at London’s BFI Flare, where it also received a positive reaction from audiences for the UK premiere. In attendance for the screenings were Cinematographer Maheen Mirza and Britain-based Producer Neeraj Churi of Lotus Visual Productions.
Mirza says: “What we look forward to before screening is how the audience will respond to the film. While the experience of finding a home is universally relatable, the particular experience of doing so that this film articulates resonates differently with different people. From previous screenings, we realise that there is a diverse response to the film. People have a variety of takebacks and this we have found very interesting. To us, it means that the film has different things to offer for an audience to respond to and connect with.”
Churi’s production is dedicated to backing films by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. His productions and co-productions of features like Sheer Qorma, Evening Shadows and Sisak have gotten numerous acclaims and accolades. He financially supports movies that revolve around the community. Through the Kashish Film Festival, he gives a handful of QDrishti Film Grant awards to aspiring queer filmmakers to help them achieve milestones in the industry.
Neeraj says: “The film’s global success goes to show exceptional work by the Ektrara Collective in weaving a timely, heartwarming tale using largely non-professional talent that resonates with people worldwide, presenting it with a cinematic appeal. It also underscores the importance of supporting independent voices like the Ektara Collective that champion the stories of the underrepresented sections of the community. Both the leads have proved that, given an opportunity and mentorship, even non-professional trans actors can win accolades and hearts.”
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