Lifestyle & Belief

"Common Gender," transgender-Hindu romance film, a smash hit in Bangladesh


Bangladeshi men look at a poster advertising the film 'Common Gender' at a movie theatre in Dhaka on July 6, 2012. A film about a love affair between a transgender person and a Hindu boy has become a surprise hit in Bangladesh, with distributors saying on July 8 that it would now be given a general release.


Munir Uz Zaman

"Common Gender," a new indie romance film in which a transgendered person falls for a Hindu boy, has been such a hit with audiences in Bangladesh that it will be given a general release, distributors told Agence-France Press on Sunday. 

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The film was initially released two weeks ago in only six theaters, where it attracted surprisingly large audiences.

Film distributor Enamul Karim told AFP it's been such "a resounding success" that an Indian producer is already eager to purchase rights to the film.

The webzine Jezebel found that "a little surprising" given the discrimination facing Southeast Asia's transgendered community, where they are known as "hijras."

This is a group that exists "in the margins of society and have little or no social status," according to a 2011 Oxfam report on the region.

The film's director, Noman Robin, told AFP he was inspired to make the film after seeing a transgendered person beaten "in front of hundreds of people" after trying to use a public bathroom.

Hijras are often denied legal access to health care, housing benefits, education, and employment, a situation the Oxfam report attributed mostly to bureaucratic complications caused by their inability to fit in a male or female gender category.

AFP said over 1,000 members of Bangladesh's transgendered community demonstrated for greater rights in Dhaka last fall, while Jezebel nodded to the community's landmark "Hijra Habba" anti-discrimination event in India last month.