Aarekti Premer Galpo (Just Another Love Story)
Rituparno Ghosh completely reinvents himself from director to actor and delivers a gripping performance in this very lyrical film by Kaushik Ganguly. Just Another Love Story (original Bengali title: Aarekti Premer Galpo) is about a filmmaker Abhiroop Sen (played by Ghosh) who makes a documentary about Chapal Bhaduri, the legendary jatra (Bengali folk theatre) actor who spent his entire career playing female roles on stage, primarily as Goddess Shitala. Thus begins a journey where director and subject learn from one another—on the one hand is Bhaduri (playing himself), who was closeted for fear of social ostracism but openly accepted as a cross-dressing actor, and on the other is the modern urban filmmaker who is open about his sexuality, but still negotiating his gender identity.
The most striking thing about Just Another Love Story is that it doesn’t make a big exhibition about its very brave subject. It’s not a look-how-path-breaking-this-film-is kind of treatment. Instead, the transgender protagonist is introduced into the story with as much casualness as any other character. Ghosh lends to his character, and the story, such a complexity that you can’t help but empathize with his struggle. The film maintains a mature and sensitive treatment throughout, never resorting to unnecessary gestures to prove its point.
The parallel story arc of Chapal Bhaduri is sensitively told and enlightening. Bhaduri plays himself with vulnerability and Ghosh playing Bhaduri in the reenactment of his younger life does a great job of switching back and forth between his character as the documentary filmmaker and a portrayal of Bhaduri. In this way the film becomes multi-layered with each element building on the other. Sen’s relationship with his bisexual cameraman Basu (Indraneil Sengupta) is also handled with maturity and complexity, especially since the latter’s wife is aware (and oddly accepting) of their relationship.
Speaking about the taboo around trans identities in India, the director Ganguly said, “Trans identities, or the third sex, have been around since the mythological times, so this isn’t a new issue at all. We think it’s new because we’re still recovering from the colonial mindset.” Ganguly’s film is an ode to the traditions of jatra, a powerful yet subtle statement on the intrinsic presence of trans identities in Indian society, and another glowing feather in the cap of the talented Ghosh, who makes a stellar acting debut.