Lesbian and Transgender

Indian Video Activist Puts Transgender in Focus

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kalki Subramaniam's video project for transgender women in India began with her own scholarship in video making. Now she's assisting other transgender women to shoot their own video as a way of breaking out of poverty and abuse.

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More Services Needed

Subramaniam said more groups like hers are needed to provide basic counseling and financial rehabilitation services.

"Most of the funding that comes into India is meant for HIV-affected transgender people," she said. "What we need are also services to make sure that transgenders are not left open to abuse that increases their chances of becoming positive. Creating an atmosphere more accepting of us will prevent hate crimes, enable us to get educated and thus be less exploited in life."

Subramaniam models her video-making project on one run by WAVE or Women Aloud: Video blogging for Empowerment, which is run by Angana Jhaveri and Sapna Shahani.

Once a year the two women gather young women from every corner of India in the state of Goa for a training course in video blogging. No subject is taboo.

Subramaniam used her training session to piece together random footage she had shot over the years and made "Punnagai," her first film.

The title means "smile" in Tamil. Her movie is a mélange of those rare moments of happiness--with family members, teasing friends, dressing up--that are almost guaranteed to make a transgendered person smile.

Making "Punnagai" established the training model for Project Kalki, says Subramaniam. For the project each woman gets a leased camera. They make their movies and then come back to Subramaniam for help in editing, voiceovers and other technical points of production.

"While training the girls in the nuances of scriptwriting and composing a shot, I also told them that the best films they could make would be about subjects closest to their hearts," Subramaniam said.


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Paromita Pain is a senior reporter for The Hindu Newspaper in Chennai, India. She can be reached at paromita.pain@gmail.com.

For more information:

Project Kalki:

Women Aloud: Video blogging for Empowerment (WAVE):

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