South Asian Projects
Hide and Seek-Aparajita Sangita (Bangladesh)
Logline: Every day around us, some people like Ujjwal-Pori are disappearing behind our eyes, due to the fact that our society is not yet ready to accept their love and relationship.
Synopsis: A relationship between a man and a woman is considered a ‘normal relationship’ in our society. When a man falls in love with a transwoman, our society, country, law, religion doesn’t accept them.
‘Hide and Seek’ is a documentary that talks about Ujjwal and Pori’s forbidden love.
Ujjwal and Pori have been living together for the last 12 years in a ‘Hijra Polli’ (a place where Transgender people live) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Due to the fact that he (Ujjwal) loves Pori, Ujjwal has to lead a life of hiding in this society. In other words, he has been in ‘lockdown’ for 12 long years!
Being a transwoman, Pori can never become a mother. Even though Ujjwal has the capability to be a father, he will never be able to have a child of his own because of his marriage to Pori. They do go through a lot of pain about it, however no regrets.
Ujjwal’s friendship with Pori started 19 years ago. At that time, they used to study in the same class in the boys’ school. Pori was then a boy, known as Sujan.
The other boys in the class harassed and teased Sujan every day as he liked to dress up like a girl. When Sujan mentioned the harassment to the headmaster, he (the headmaster) on the contrary blamed him and told Sujan that he (Sujan) had a behavioral problem and that he should not come back to school anymore.
Sujan went home with a heavy heart and told his mother everything about the incident. After listening to everything she decided that he should never go back to school. Ujjwal lost contact with Sujan.
After finishing school life, one fine day Ujjwal came across a woman called Pori at a shrine and got to know her better eventually. At a given point they become friends. Through regular conversations and various discussions, all of a sudden, he realizes that Pori is no one but his long-lost friend Sujan. She is now a transwoman and lives in a “Hijra Polli”.
Ujjwal neither had any knowledge about the culture of Hijras and its community nor anything about the Transgender subject matter. Out of curiosity, he starts to make frequent visits to the “Hijra Polli” with Pori to explore.
At one given point his friendship with Pori turns to love. Coming to know about their love affair and relationship the relatives, friends, neighbors start to mock Ujjwal and eventually avoid him as well.
Ujjwal realized that this society still doesn’t consider transgender people as normal human-being. Society is not yet ready to accept the concept that one could love a transgender person. Ujjwal’s family is also a part of this society. Taking into consideration the honor of his family, he was kicked out of the home.
Ujjwal eventually married Pori secretly and started to live a discrete life, far away from the eyes of this society.
However, a mother’s love neither knows any bounds and restraints of society nor can she ignore it. Thus, she keeps in touch with Ujjwal but secretly. Often, she makes video calls to talk to him without letting the family know about it. Having to choose between society and her son, she also indulges herself to play ‘Hide and Seek’.
The narrative of ‘Hide and Seek’ will continue with Ujjwal-Pori’s life who hides from the society for their forbidden love which is also considered as a ‘crime’.
I have been working on various social issues for a long time, one of which is gender equality. Through my working experience, I have come to know that people of gender diversity have always been a marginalized community, who faces constant discrimination not only within their family but also in the socio-economic, educational, housing, health, and social security issues. In particular, there is a lack of awareness in our society about their gender identity and sexuality. Thus, making this documentary is a part of my activism.
I have dug deep as much as possible through my long-term research. To my utter surprise, I have noticed that every day many people from our surroundings are disappearing behind our eyes because they are forced to hide.
Our society has not yet been able to accept the concept of gender diversity. The LGBTQ+ activists, free-thinking people, secular and religious minorities, have long been targets of religious extremists.
Ever since the two LGBTQ+ rights activists were killed by Islamic extremists in Dhaka in 2016, members of these communities have been suffering from insecurity and have gone into hiding. In addition to the constant risk of life, homosexuality is a punishable offense under Bangladeshi law.
My Protagonist Ujjwal comes from a conservative Muslim family in Bangladesh. He married a transwoman out of love, which is not even legal under the customary law of Bangladesh. The Muslim religious law not only prohibits homosexuality and transgender behavior but also punishes it in various ways, which even can provide the death penalty at a given point.
I strongly believe every human being has a right to love. I witnessed deep love in Ujjwal and Pori’s eyes. There is no difference between their love and the so-called normal couples. A sexual relationship with consent between two adults cannot be considered a crime.
Through this film, I want to show how a person is deprived of his rights to love because of the rigid state, the conservative society, and the closed mentality.
This film will raise public awareness about the freedom and rights of a person to love and to live. It will play a significant role in promoting universal recognition, acceptance, and equality of love, sex, and gender diversity.
Ujjwal represents many people like him who hide from a society where loving someone from a gender-diverse population is a ‘crime’. With Ujjwal in focus, I would like to highlight society’s attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community through a humanitarian love story.
‘Hide and Seek’ is an observational documentary.
While working on another project about the “hijra culture” in one of the “Hijra Polli”, a young man hid his face and ran away when he saw the camera of our shooting unit. The incident was recorded on camera.
The Documentary will begin with that candid Shot. I will appear in this documentary a couple of times as an observer and try to find out the reason for the young man to hide from society. Finding out who the young man is and getting to know about the reasons behind his hiding away would come to light through him and the people near/close and around him. The audience will get acquainted with the mysterious young man Ujjwal and the lost childhood friend Sujan, who is now Pori, a transwoman.
Their daily lives will be captured on camera.
The life of the Ujjwal and Pori is different from usual families in our society. Usually in our society boys work outside and girls do household work. But since Ujjwal can’t get out, he tidies the house, cooks, does all the household work. After finishing all the work, Ujjwal waits for Pori’s return.
On the other hand, Pori wakes up in the morning and freshens up, has her breakfast with Ujjwal. Then she goes out to work in groups with her companions. According to the rules of Hijra culture, Pori and her companions earn by collecting money from various shops. When they find a newborn somewhere, they go there and bless the newborn, by dancing and singing and in return ask for money.
When Pori returns home after work, they dine together. Part loves to sing and dance. Ujjwal, who knows a bit about choreography, teaches her to dance. They sit at home and sing together. My camera will follow them in various moments of their daily life, to capture the moments of intimacy, mischievousness, grievance, etc. along with the other aspects in their daily life.
One by one, the audience will be introduced to various characters, such as the family members of Ujjwal, his childhood friends, neighbors, Ujjwal and Pair’s school teachers, transwomen and men, ‘Guru Ma’ of the hijra community. In everyone’s opinion, the viewers will perceive the attitude of society towards trans men and women. It will be clear why Ujjwal hides away from society.
I’ve been in the company of Ujjwal for the last two years without a camera. The intention was to become closer to him and his transwoman spouse in order to gain their trust. Gradually trust and blondness grew and when they accepted me as one of their own, they started to share their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and information with me.
From then on (with their consent) I could start recording with my camera. I started to leave a camera at the corner of their room and later realized that they were so comfortable that they often forgot the existence of it and went about their daily life. Sometimes I did use my Mobile to capture relevant moments of their life. In this documentary, we will shoot candid shots on Ujjwal and Pori from the observer’s point of view. For this, more than one camera will be used.
Ujjwal always hides his face, and his eyes with a cap – that’s how he was shot, and it will remain so. If his face is seen in any part of the documentary, it will be blurred during editing. Nowhere in this documentary, the identity of Ujjwal will be revealed because this society is not yet ready to see him.
Aparajita Sangita is an independent filmmaker. She has been involved in filmmaking for the last 10 years. After completing Honors in History, she studied the Japanese language from “Kazaguruma Nihongo Gakko, Saitama ” in Japan.
Her short films are
- Fear of Men,
Her Documentary films are:
- The New Normal
- Sonali Ansher Dusmay
Her short films ‘Fear of Men’, ‘Separation’ and ‘Revolt’ have already won 13 awards at various international film festivals.
Total Budget of the film- 35000 USD
Secured Funding- 5000 USD (Own investment)
Fund required –30,000 USD
The film is in the early Production stage now. Shooting is ongoing. I have to shoot at different times throughout the year to reach the goal.