Is insecurity making actors say no to play a trans character in Faraz Arif Ansari’s Sabr?

Whenever I’ve spoken to Faraz (Arif Ansari), I’ve always known that I am talking to someone really grounded and moreover, someone who genuinely has just love to give out to this universe. When I interviewed him around the time Sisak had won it’s first few awards, if I am not wrong, we were supposed to meet at this cafe in South Mumbai, a place both of us associate to the word home. He walked in, on time, greeted me with the warmest hello and then we spoke for over an hour, not just about Sisak, but about so many things that bother him, everything that plagues the industry and so much more.

On his journey to make his first feature film, Faraz Arif Ansari is now re-facing all the possible challenges, in addition to the new ones, that he faced during Sisak. His feature, titled Sabr, deals with the journey of a trans character. With Shernaz Patel and Shweta Tripathi already on board, Ansari is still on the lookout for his leading character. “Shweta is playing the character of Dilnawaz – the only voice and representation of our generation. She is playing the role of the catalyst, someone who brings in a lot of semblance with her verve and effervescence. Also, you will be seeing Shweta like never before, in terms of physical appearance and of course, the role. She’s playing a goth Parsi south Bombay girl – a rebel with a cause.”

Over conversations on WhatsApp, he told me, “I am really trying to get two A-listers to play the two parallel leads in the film – one of the transgender woman & the other of young man who accompanies her on this trip that’s she’s on. Naseeruddin Shah, Boman Irani & Rajat Kapoor have refused the film. Irani & Kapoor because they don’t want to play trans. Shah because of creative differences.”

“And now you want to approach Amitabh Bachchan for the part?” I had asked. “I want to approach Mr Bachchan but not for the transgender role but for a guest appearance. It’s a small but very pivotal role in the film that is the crux of the film because it is about first love.”

I then started throwing questions at him, reminding myself that this wasn’t an interview we were doing but just a casual conversation. But did I stop? “So are you looking at theatre actors, or real people?”

“We did look out for trans actors. Even Ellen page went out on her twitter & Instagram are published it but we didn’t find anyone who fits the bill. So, we will have to get a cisgender male to play the lead and it’ll have to be an A-lister for the only reason because this film needs to be mainstream and universal and not ignored or shunned or only for a certain section of the audiences. It’s a family film. It’s a film about acceptance, love, closures, friendships that are stronger than love & families that struggle to find hope – as universal as it gets. What’s not mainstream about it?”

Are actors today, so insecure of their credibility and even existence that they do not want to experiment and play people they aren’t? And don’t they already play people they aren’t? I haven’t read or heard the script of Sabr, I even had to Google (earlier) what it was about, and the film’s greatness is not something we need to address today. What we really need to talk about it that how actors, all brilliant in their own sense – aren’t willing to play a trans actor. Most of the actors around us today, take to their social media, get on (privileged) platforms and talk about equality, and against atrocities of any kind. But where are these voices in the real life? Do these actors, ‘actor’ being the key word, don’t feel that they have a sense of responsibility?

Y’all may shun down patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and everything else that is supposedly wrong with the system, but nothing is going to change until and unless you change. You need to physically throw the trash out if you see it. And the same goes with all these ‘supposed problems’ the society is dealing with. With this, we (everyone at Bombay Balloon) wish Ansari all the luck and light for this film and we hope that this film becomes and establishes what you want it to.

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