2023 Onscreen Transgender Representation in India
2023 has been a hopeful year, by and large, for onscreen transgender representation in India. Almost all of it has been on streaming. Much of it is down to the performances.
- Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju’s heartfelt debut in the second season of Made in Heaven
- Sushmita Sen’s effective role in the JioCinema series Taali
Haddi: A Promising Film?
Some headway appears to have been made in the mainstream, which is why I was a little apprehensive about watching Haddi on Zee5. The trailer for Akshat Ajay Sharma’s debut film seemed to hark back to a certain Mahesh Bhatt school of filmmaking. And it featured Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a cis-het actor often cast as gender-variant for shock.
The Reality of Haddi
My fears, it turns out, were greatly misplaced. Grotesquerie and misrepresentation are the least of Haddi’s problems. Instead, its unstable plot, low-rent aesthetics, a needlessly convoluted narrative style, and the profusion of gangster and North India clichés sink this film.
Storyline and Cast
Director: Akshat Ajay Sharma
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Ila Arun, Vipin Sharma, Saurabh Sachdeva, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Rajesh Sharma
Run-time: 134 minutes
Storyline: Harika, a trans woman, assumes a new identity to exact revenge on a sadistic Noida politician
The Story Unfolds
Flashbacks clarify that Haddi is actually Harika, a trans woman. Shunned and abused by society, she seeks revenge on Pramod Ahlawat, who killed her godmother and usurped their land. Harika infiltrates Ahlawat’s seedy nexus by pretending to be a man.
Critical Reception of Haddi
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with conjuring a violent and vengeful trans protagonist, someone who kills and schemes her way to the bitter end. If executed with defiance and style, it can even feel empowering. But Haddi is far from that kind of a film.
The Flaws in Haddi
How to invest in Harika’s revenge track when the film messes up the emotional blueprint of her life? A fixation on what Siddiqui perceives as outwardly ‘feminine’ gestures obfuscates any sense of genuine interiority. The film wears its noir griminess on its sleeve, with too many styles and tonalities jostling for attention at a given moment.
The Final Showdown
Despite its flaws, it’s fun to watch Anurag Kashyap and Nawazuddin Siddiqui engage in a ferocious beatdown in the end. Best friends make the most compelling adversaries.
Haddi is currently streaming on ZEE5