Published: 29th June 2018
Transgender model Laya tells us what was right and wrong about Njan Marykutty
Laya Maria Jaison talks about how Malayalam flick Njan Marykutty portrayed transgenders in the right spirit while pointing out the film's shortcomings at the same time
A few years ago, when Laya Maria Jaison took off the mask of a man and came out a transwoman, the people of Kottayam found it hard to accept. He was a man a few months ago. How would they accept him as her now? Impossible! They frowned. But today, the same people endearingly call Laya, Marykutty and she is absolutely loving it.
Endearment is new for her, after all the insults, curses and abuses. And therefore, Laya is happy about Ranjith Shankar's Jayasurya-starrer Njan Marykutty. The film, that revolves around the life of Marykutty, a transsexual, has been receiving praise from critics all over the country. The transwoman here is devoid of all the glitter, cringeworthy clothing or excessive makeup. Instead, she is shown as normal. Like one of us. She drapes herself in classy cotton saris, teaches children, works as an RJ and aspires to be a police officer someday. She knows when and how to handle the catcallers and the desperate men who are behind her for sexual favours. Marykutty's is, in fact, one of the most dignified portrayals of a transgender in the annals of Malayalam cinema.
"This is the first time in history that a transgender's real story has been shown on the silver screen. There are slices of real life in the film and many of them made me and others from the community cry our hearts out. These are situations that we have lived through," says Laya. She also doesn't fail to praise Jayasurya for his performance.
Being Marykutty: Jayasurya has been receiving praise for his
performance from all over
For someone who had it tough to come out in front of the family and in front of the public, Laya became a popular face among the transgender activists in Kerala after she organised a few workshops on gender awareness and taking part in a beauty pageant by the organisation Dhwayah.
For the ones who've watched the film, it is difficult to miss the part where Marykutty corrects her lawyer that, "I'm not a transgender, I'm a transsexual." Laya finds it difficult to accept the dialogue and the mentality it is connected with. "A transsexual is also a part of the transgender community. Sometimes, it looks like the film is trying to promote transsexuals over transgenders. But that is not right. There are many transgenders who haven't gone under the knife and have yet accepted their identity." says Laya, who is a Project Assistant in the transgender cell of the Social Justice Department, Government of Kerala
Malayalam cinema has portrayed transgenders previously too. But most of it was mere mockery. Dileep's Chandupottu talks about a man who is raised as a woman. He is not a transgender. This film was completely demeaning for the transgender community in Kerala
Laya Maria Jaison
This 27-year-old also doesn't agree with Marykutty when she rejects the incentives and reservations that the government provides to the community. "Marykutty is an educated professional. She is talented, well settled and more privileged than most of the others. It's easy for her to say no to these things, but that statement is demeaning to the others in the community. Most of us cannot afford to say that," she says. "Marykutty is strong and independent. She is a great role model. But she may not be a true reflection of our society. I wish everyone from the community gets access to good education and opportunities," adds Laya. She also tells us how it was easier for her to come out after getting a proper job.
The character also states, how this is neither a man's world, nor a woman's, but instead, it is a world of talent. Laya questions that too. "Not everyone is talented. Why not we instead say that this is a world of humans?" she asks. Marykutty is a humanist after all.
But differences apart, she is thrilled that many transgenders are now accepted by their families. We, transgenders, have nothing to gain out of watching this film. Instead, I want the others - parents, friends and the society to watch it and understand the situation," she says. As Marykutty says, it takes time for people to accept something new. Lays knows that too. At the same time, the small changes are making her hopeful of a better tomorrow.