Two thirds of Rajasthan was once the tree of Khejri/Khejdi. It was a part of the cultural identity of the state like no other plant species. One of the ingredients of many traditional Rajasthani dishes, it also provided feed for the cattle and firewood. It is now dying a slow death because of its people.
Born as an intersex person, Khejdi is brought up by her father behind concrete walls and closed doors. To keep her from being seen and slaughtered by the villagers, she is told that if she steps outside she’ll catch a dangerous disease. But how long can one keep a bird caged? The story of Khejdi is about growing up different in a society that’s scared of the unknown. Directed by Rohit Dwivedi and starring small screen star Ashish Sharma, Khejdi premiered this week at the 2018 chapter of Kashish Queer Film Festival at Liberty Cinemas in Mumbai. It received a tremendous response from the audience. Together everyone laughed, cheered, clapped proud and aloud at some iconic dialogues and performances. At the end of the film, people stood up and clapped in respect.
The visuals in the film are extraordinary. It is set in a desert village in Rajasthan. It serves a reminder of how beautiful and nurturing the earth is. All the filth one can see, is the work of it’s people. It speaks of those miraculous things we take for granted and have omitted from our experience of life- trees and herbs, the lake and bugs, the way the shadow works, sunshine and sand.
It is a movie that makes one question. It portrays the society as it is and sends a beautiful soul, born intersex, into this corrupt world. What to think of what carries out is left to the audience. Just as it questions what true living entails, throughout the movie it shoots out a series of other questions to the audience. A lot of our attitudes towards gender and sexuality come from our medical books. These textbooks do not account for alternate identities. They are often strictly binary and heteronormative. Khejdi’s father is a physician. The questioning of these books begins when Khejdi starts navigating through her identity crisis seeking answers from her father’s medicine books. It questions the true nature of love through Khejdi’s relationship with her father. It mocks our ideas of masculinity and the hypocrisy of the society.
We borrow our attitudes from the movies we watch. Khejdi is a spectacular movie and a valuable contribution to the transgender community of India (cultural groups intact) that is so misrepresented in Indian cinema.