You might call it a film that holds a mirror to progressive society that is still fumbling about how to handle homosexuality. You might call it a film that educates without being preachy about same sex relationships. You might even call it a personal film. But at the end of the day, Chitrangada – The Crowning Wish will always remain a film that you will not be able to ignore in the context of Indian cinema.
Merging myth with reality, this Rituparno Ghosh movie throws up a lot of questions, answering a few while leaving the rest open to interpretations. How difficult is it for parents to come to terms with the fact that their son is gay? 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?
While it’s a fact that movies abroad have literally exhausted themselves of dealing with same sex issues, Indian cinema has taken time to catch on to the trend. That alone, however, can’t be a cause for celebration as far as Chitrangada is concerned.
Kasturi (Raima Sen), the main dancer in Rudra’s theatre troupe, or as they call it, the dol, brings in a new percussionist, Partho. Despite his heroin-addiction and obvious unreliability, Rudra decides to give him a chance, because, “since I’ve been through ostracism and gossip in society, I thought that maybe I could help him.” Gradually, Rudra falls in love with him and tries his best to rid him of his addiction but to no avail. It is obvious to everyone including Rudra’s mother that Partho is taking advantage of his loneliness and simply using him, and yet Rudra decides to go ahead with the sex-change anyway, believing he can truly start a family with Partho. He accuses Rudra of not being happy with his natural self and using the excuse of starting a family just to become a woman. Rudra says, “If everyone were happy with their natural selves, then men wouldn’t work out hours at the gym trying to build six packs and women wouldn’t thread their eyebrows or wax”. It is the simplicity of this answer that is astounding, for Rudra it is just a ‘cosmetic surgery’.
While his mother is sympathetic, kind and loving, Rudra’s father highly disapproves of his sexual orientation and choice of profession, that of a dancer. It is important that Rudra’s style of dressing, elaborate jewellery, heavily kohled eyes and non-masculine behaviour makes his choice of gender identity very clear. He was forced to study engineering by his parents and he gave it up later to pursue dancing. While he begs his father to come to his play and admits to wanting him there, he knows his father won’t ever turn up because it is embarrassing for him to watch his son perform with a musical anklet (ghungroo) on. Gradually, we see his parents accepting him. An important moment is when Rudra’s father kisses him on his forehead while he is lying unconscious on the hospital bed.
Even though Rudra had thought he had found a family within his theatre troupe, it is his parents who ultimately stood by him and cared for him.