BOMBAY EUNUCH is a feature-length documentary portrait of one eunuch family’s struggle to survive in today’s changing India. The filmmakers’ ability to gain access to this notoriously secretive community has resulted in a rare and insightful glimpse of an otherwise nearly invisible world.
This is an excerpt from the feature film.
BOMBAY EUNUCH is a feature-length documentary portrait of one eunuch family's struggle to survive in today's changing India. The filmmakers' ability to gain access to this notoriously secretive community has resulted in a rare and insightful glimpse of an otherwise nearly invisible world.
Throughout much of Indian history, the eunuchs - or hijras, as they are known - have been considered almost divine. Both respected and feared for their reputed spiritual powers, they have been revered in Indian society, and have played an integral role in community life. From the Moghul court to the village religious ceremony, the blessing of the hijra was thought to bring good fortune - and her curse almost certain to wreak havoc.
Today, the hijras are little more than relics in a rapidly modernizing world. Although superstitions linger, most people in India no longer believe in the eunuch's powers. Widely perceived as foolish, they have become objects of mockery, and many have resorted to begging and prostitution to make a living. Ostracized from their families and communities, they are forced to live apart from the traditional Indian caste system and often form surrogate families of their own.
BOMBAY EUNUCH traces the experiences of one such family, and its day-to-day struggle in a ghetto of Bombay. Focusing on the family's dynamic matriarch, Meena, as she sees to her own well-being and that of her daughters, the film examines the hijras' increasing marginalization in Indian society, and creates an intimate, moving portrait of one family as it confronts the challenges of poverty, prostitution, and AIDS.
Weaving the dramatic personal narratives of Meena's family together with rare archival images, revealing Bollywood filmclips, and the insightful commentary of on-camera experts, BOMBAY EUNUCH places Meena's story within the larger context of Indian history and society, illuminating the gender politics at work in Indian culture and uncovering the roots of the hijras' current plight. In the process, Meena and her daughters emerge as determined survivors, their lives at once a powerful evocation of tradition and an inspiring parable about the human will to adapt.
Directed by Alexandra Shiva, Sean MacDonald and Michelle Gucovsky
Produced by Alexandra Shiva
Edited by Penelope Falk
Cinematography by Ajay Noronha and Bima Biswas