Sushmita Sen underwent a major transformation to get into the skin of transgender activist Gauri Sawant’s portrayal in ‘Taali’. The duo might belong to completely different worlds but there’s a commonality that ties them on a personal level. In 2014, Gauri became the first transgender person to file a petition in the Supreme Court of India for adoption rights of people from her community. Sushmita also moved the Bombay Court and the Supreme Court to adopt her daughters, Renee and Alisah, as she was denied adoption for being a single and fertile woman.
In an exclusive chat with News18, the former Miss Universe addresses it and says that though fighting for adoptive rights remains a common ground between them, it was a hardly of topic of conversation between the two. Talking about it, she tells us, “We talk about motherhood, not about adoption. Gayatri is just one of the children she’s a mother to. She’s a mother to many children who live with her. But the adoptive rights are still not in place for the transgender community, the LGBTQ community or the third gender.”
Sushmita points out that their struggles cannot be compared as the transgender community is still fighting for the most basic rights. She states, “Gauri’s fights have been way bigger… the right to have a birth certificate, a death certificate, to get a job, to own land and just the things that we take for granted. We generalise them and say that everyone talks, shouts and claps a certain way, but that’s not true.” But she’s quick to point out, “There are lawyers, doctors, police officers and IAS officers in the transgender community. At the end of the day, if you’re fit for a job, you’re fit for a job.”
Despite that, Sushmita and Shreegauri ‘understand each other on a human level’. Prod her further and she remarks, “What it is to be a woman and a mother is secondary… We connect on a human level. The goodness she has and embodies, I see it and feel it. And it’s not in the most obvious way where we go out of our way to tell people we love them. She doesn’t do that.”
Having spent some quality time with her during the making of Taali, Sushmita is elated to have found a friend in Shreegauri. “If I’m sick, she’s the first person to come with a blessing. If I need something, she’ll make it her business to make that happen. She has love like that. That’s love in action and that’s who she is. I find her very inspirational,” she says.
Sushmita acknowledges Shreegauri’s battles and emphasises that the web series is her way of paying a homage to her life and strength. “Imagine to have nothing and to build from that! The rest of us always had something to build from but she had no one. The makers had the audacity to put in the time, money and energy into telling a story long overdue. And then to have me come into it is the best thing they did. It’s my tribute of love,” she shares with a smile.
So, what was Shreegauri’s reaction after watching Taali? “She came to me, blessed me, kissed my forehead and gave me a gift. She told me, ‘I don’t want to watch. Yeh jo kar rahi hai, sahi kar rahi hai. Yeh meri marble chi murti hai,’” states the Aarya actor.
Taali chronicles Shreegauri’s daring transformation, incredible motherhood and iconic battle that led to the inclusion of the third gender on every official document in India. It will premiere on JioCinema on August 15.