Anjali Ameer and Jeeva are transwomen in a film industry infamous for sexism and inequality. But despite facing challenges, Anjali is excited about her role in Ram’s upcoming Tamil-Malayalam bilingual, Peranbu. Raised as a man, she always felt that there was a woman trapped inside her body.
“My transformation to a woman through surgery helped me gain confidence to pursue cinema. But it wasn’t easy,” she says. “I went into depression. I have separated from my parents. I want everyone to remember that we are all humans first.”
Her confidence and excitement about her role shines throughout this interview. “I’ll be seen throughout the film with Mammootty sir. Being part of the film is an experience I’ll cherish forever,” says Anjali, who is a big admirer of actors Vijay and Ajith. Along with acting, she also continues to pursue modelling.
Jeeva, who rose to fame with Dharmadurai (2016), is grateful for the opportunity. Years ago, after she had left her hometown, Sivakasi, and was working in a tea shop in Koyambedu, she couldn’t have predicted the twists and turns in her life. “I faced sexual abuse regularly. I didn’t have access to restrooms. When I was in malls, I’d be scared to use the toilets for the fear of being ridiculed,” she says.
It wasn’t easy even before she changed her gender. When she realised she wanted to be a woman, well-wishers advised her to approach doctors, priests, or sometimes, even astrologers to seek remedies. Her parents who had abandoned her have now become protective.
“If Dharmadurai didn’t happen, my parents may not have come back. We need more filmmakers to portray us in dignified roles,” she says. “Like many others in my community, I didn’t want to get into the sex trade. I want to be an example and show them that we could do whatever we set our minds on.”
Before her acting stint, she worked as a make-up artiste for many popular actresses. However, she couldn’t continue, as she couldn’t register in the union because she had no money. She dismisses those issues, as she’s focussed on films like Aakkam and Papparappam. “I want to be cast in dignified roles. I will accept only roles that portray transgenders decently.”