Aruvi, normalizing transness on screen 

Produced by Prakash and Prabhu of Dream Warrior Pictures, Aruvi is a 2017 Indian Tamil-language film directed by debutant Arun Prabhu Purushothaman. The lead in the movie was a newcomer, Aditi Balan, and the movie begins on a stormy night with a policeman from the anti-terrorism wing interrogating Aruvi (Aditi Balan).

To give a gist of the story, it is how Aruvi’s life turns topsy-turvy after she meets with an accident. She had a loving family, a doting dad, mom, and younger brother living in a small town. After the accident, her dad starts detesting her and throws her out of the house. Aruvi, homeless and unsure of what to do, befriends a kindhearted transgender Emily, played by Anjali Varadhan. Arun Prabu Purushothaman’s debut is quite an ambitious and well-written satire that takes an issue at hand and does many unexpected things with it!

The film has a transgender person, Emily, as the lead character’s companion as she manages to navigate her life, all through her best and worst times. The narrative manages to normalize Emily’s gender and treats her like any other important supporting character. The story gives her important screen time and dialogue. Emily and the lead character, Aruvi, are just two people who share their joys and sorrows in the film. In time, she becomes Aruvi’s friend and a pillar of support.

The movie is a true satire and manages to casually deliver some strong messages. The narrative also treats the transgender community and AIDS with dignity. Her role as a strong transgender AIDS patient was praised by the critics, and her role was well received by the queer community.

In most movie industries, transgender people are typically cast in roles that are either for ridiculous comic relief or negative roles. Even the “rightly” done roles offered to queer people are either immoral or untrustworthy, without getting into the nuances of why they are immoral or untrustworthy. That way, most of the movies don’t get into nuances anyway. The complexities are usually lost in trying to present these queer experiences on screen.

The film’s critical success was important in giving transgender actors hope that they might have roles beyond the regular stereotypical and mostly humiliating tropes. Aruvi’s portrayal of a transgender woman, just as a friend, has been a refreshing (and welcoming) change. 

Aruvi is a significant film for roles and characterization offered to transgender people because similar prominent roles have never been given to transgender people before.

Not just in the country, the movie was presented at many international film festivals. At the Filmfare Awards South and also at the South Indian International Movie Awards, Anjali Varadhan was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress category. The movie’s director, Arun Prabu Purushothaman, was awarded a Trans* Ally for his movie.

Aruvi, is a well done satire and apart from the outstanding acting, the movie packs the right amount of suspense, humor, and thrill while putting across the message. Watch Aruvi on Amazon Prime today!