2017

CAMFF 2018: Roobha (2017)

Directed by: Lenin M. Sivam
Starring: Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Amrit Sandhu, Thenuka Kantharajah, Angela Chrstine
UK Release Date: N/A

Written by Elena Morgan

Roobha (Amrit Sandhu), a trans-woman, struggles to find her place after being ostracized by her family. Her chance encounter with a family man, Anthony (Antonythasan Jesuthasan), leads to a beautiful romance. But their blissful relationship soon comes crashing down for reasons not their own.

Set in the Tamil community in Toronto, Roobha is a romantic story that touches on the complexities of gender identity. At one point Roobha talks about Mata, “the goddess of transgenders”, who was once a princess but when she discovered her husband in women’s clothes instead of coming to her bed, she cut off his penis. Mata is a figure Roobha gets comfort from, along with the idea of the ancient rituals that turned men into women. Roobha wants to undergo gender reassignment surgery but the costs and social pressures are almost too much to bear sometimes.

Roobha finds comfort and sisterhood in fellow sex workers. They look after one another and with them she finds a family to fill the void of her biological family. With her new-found sisters, she meets Mai and David, an elderly couple who own the Chinese restaurant the girls frequently visit. They all call Mai “mum” as she takes care of them. One conversation between Mai and Roobha is heart-warming as Roobha gets the nurturing and understanding mother figure she’s needed.

The scenes where Roobha and Anthony are so soft in every sense of the word. The way they are around one another is so gentle and caring, the lighting is soft and gives them an almost romantic glow. These are two very different people, but they love each other dearly and that love shines off the screen.

It’s wonderful to see how Anthony’s understanding of Roobha and who she is evolves. Anthony is a lot older than her, but he is kind and sensitive. Both Jesuthasan and Sandhu give sensitive and touching performances, because of them you believe that Roobha and Anthony could be a loving and stable couple if there weren’t other factors affecting them both.

Roobha is a unique romantic story that shines a light on the transgender stigma in the South-Asian community. Some people can be accepting, other’s views can change, all the while Roobha is finding her own way and her own community.

Elena’s Verdict

3-5

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