Gender bender: will and way to cross over

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  • Published 23.09.04

While youngsters his age were going to college and checking out career options, Sushanto Das was fielding a volley of questions from Rabindra Bharati University, where he had been denied admission, because of his sexuality. While his earlier para friends where enjoying gully cricket, he was dealing with insults from neighbours who took it upon themselves to make his and his family?s life miserable. He was scared, upset and totally at a loss.

Now 29-year-old Sushanto is Tista ? confident with a new name, sexuality and identity. Decked in all prettiness in a saree with a hint of lipstick, bangles, bindi and bead jewellery, she is through with her days of apprehension and misery, as she takes up a career in acting.

A transexual woman, Tista, already has two films in her booty. ?I had been working as research assistant in Calcutta for a University of Berkeley fellow on gender identity disorder. I had amassed a whole lot of material on the subject and had written a script for a film to deal with the topic.?

When Tista had taken her idea to film-maker Buddhadeb Dasgupta, he made her act in a 25-minute documentary I could not be your son, mom, which was eventually shot partly in her Agarpara home and Calcutta.

?In Buddhada?s movie, I did not have much acting to do. But as I faced the camera for the first time, I realised it was my calling,? says Tista.

Next came Subrata Dutta?s 45-minute film The Third Gender? which was screened at the Bulgaria film festival recently. ?I played actress Arunima Ghosh?s friend and confidante. Though the name hints at some ambiguous gender in the film, I was not directly part of that ambiguity. In fact, the name alludes to Arunima?s character in the movie,? says Tista.

Right now, Tista is getting ready to act alongside June Maliah in Shankho Ghosh?s full-length feature film Ebong Fera and telefilm Naari, where she plays a college girl. ?While I was scared about how I would look on screen, my directors always pacified me saying, it was their duty to see to it. So my priority remains now to improve my acting skills,? she explains.

Having had positive responses from some of Calcutta?s well-known theatre companies, Tista has finally decided to join Shaonli Mitra?s Panchambaidik. ?I start rehearsals from next week,? she says, adding, ?I had been an active member of Akashbani?s Golpodadur Ashor when I was a kid. After I turned 14, a fresh audition saw me through to Yubabani. I still enjoy reciting poetry at functions,? she explains as she narrates a couplet from her own book of poetry, Noshto Podaboli, published by Prothom Aalo.

Flush with excitement of having signed a contract for acting in Akash Bangla?s series Sahityer Sera Somoy, Tista is also getting ready with a book on her life, which she will call Shudhu Hridoyer Jonyo.