The third gender’s new outing

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A new reality show will emancipate transgenders, one talent at a time, says  Thufail PT

Three to tango Contestants TA Shafi, Shyam CS, Aboobacker AK

DRESSED IN a sea green sari with silver embroidery, when Shafeek V got done with his make-up (a ruby red lipstick and liquid eyeliner) for his audition, compliments showered. “You look exactly like a woman,” said his companions. Shafeek was thrilled.

The 22-year-old wage labourer is one of the 45 contestants who auditioned for Chandupottu, a new reality show for the sexual minorities in Kerala. Named after a popular Malayalam film on transgenders, it is expected to hit the prime time early 2011. Producer Moidu Thazhath has got offers from many Malayalam channels to host the show that is expected to be aired in 50 episodes. Six districts in Kerala have been chosen as possible shooting locations.

Five years ago, Thazhath saw two transgenders in Vatakara being brutally tortured by a group of men. They made them stand naked amid the crowd, besides destroying their rented house in the town. The men who humiliated them wanted sexual favours. When the duo refused, they were punished.

What moved Thazhath back then culminated into this reality show, which the transgenders see as a platform to get noticed for their talents. Atul Kumar CV, 23, a lab technician from Kalpetta, is a case in point. During the audition, Atul, who sings in a female voice, advised some participants to avoid girls’ outfits. However, no one missed his joy when he was called “edee” (darling) by a judge.

It took nearly two years for Thazhath to convince the candidates about the programme. “Those who resort to sexual work, live in unknown lodges and sleep under the seats of parked buses,” he says, adding that at times he has given new dresses to his contestants to get more contacts. He also picked some through transgender associations in the state.

Most participants feel they shouldn’t be called swavarganuragikal (homosexuals) as it also connotes sex worker in Malayalam. “There must be some people in the show who are sex workers. But most of us belong to decent families,” says Shihabuddin K, a participant. But they have no problems being called strainaswabhavamullavar (effeminate men). As of now, each is busy competing with the other to prove their mettle.

thufail@tehelka.com

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