(This reviewer chose to address Joyita Mondal as female gender since that is something she chose to be)
It was at a very young age in school when Joyita (who then used to be Jayanta) was gang-raped by the boys in his school. They took him aside and sodomised Joyita without her consent till she bled to an endless amount of pain. When she went home and told her mother about the horrific incident, while deeply bleeding from her anal, she realised that this was the punishment she had to face for not being a cisgender; for choosing to mentally think like a woman for despite being born with the different reproductive system.
On her first day at college, when Joyita got her eyebrows done and applied lipstick while getting dressed for college. She was thrashed so hard and even electrocuted by the consent of her parents, hoping that these may be a cure for her attachment towards her abilities to act like a transgender.
Who would you blame for that? Is it not wrong that Bollywood has always treated the third gender as a section of comedy, the abnormal existence? It was only in Shyam Benegal’s Welcome to Sajjanpur where a transgender character managed to live his life with enough respect, win the votes of the people in the village and live a respectable life as an MP.
When Joyita Mondol ran away from her house several years back, hardly did she know that in 2018, she would become the first transgender to be appointed as a judge in the Lok Adalat of Islampur, West Bengal. Discrimination became a part of her life in various forms, even when she chose to run away from her house and begin a separate life, society never allowed her to do so. But she continued to fight her own battle.
She started earning her living while working as a beggar. She spent her nights on the benches of the bus stand, for no hotels would give her a room. Such were the punishments she had to face for choosing to wear a saree, put on make-up and wear lipstick. Eventually, she learnt that education is her only way to escape for her otherwise troubled life. Although previously she had classmates who had raped her that trauma wasn’t enough to deter her spirit, rather it only motivated her to do better, to do something for the third gender since she was well aware that no one bothered about them for choosing to be different.
Even when she chose to work at a call-centre, where nothing but your voice played a big role in doing your job, Joyita was ostracised. She formed a transgender community in West Bengal’s Islamapur where they organised cultural events and weaved materials for a living. While campaigning for the rights of the third gender she started studying law again. While her days were spent behind organising campaign for equal rights, at night she spent her time studying law.
It was in 2014 when all her prayers were answered and the Supreme Court gave her the respect she always wanted. On July 8, Joyita was appointed as the Judge in Lok Adalat of Islampur, thereby creating a history of being the first transgender to earn such a respectable position. But is Joyita’s fight over? Has her fault ended? That is an answer which will come forward next time you see a transgender and choose not to avoid any contact with them.
Joyita’s fight will go a long way, and the Hoichoi film chose to tell a story with simple shots and without any excessive dramatization of the background score. It was probably the correct decision taken by director Saumya Sengupta.
Due to the lack of dramatic backdrop, experimental camera movement, we are able to concentrate more on what Joyita struggles to tell us. All she wants is a better world to live in, and not end up getting sexually harassed for choosing to be different. That was the fight women did, when they changed their names, wrote books in order to sell them in a world dominated by men. But in an era of the gender pay gap, have women yet secured the space that’s meant for the real talent?
Joyita very well understands that her fight is not over and while she needs the support of the third gender to end the biasness, she needs the support of the cisgender too, to see a better world.
In a collection full of thriller, crime, biopics, I am Joyita refuses to be a drama (or any kind of genre) and chooses to be what Joyita wants to be. In an ironical way, the cinematography reflects the heart of the protagonist. I am Joyita is available on Hoichoi