EXCLUSIVE: Namrata Singh Gujral’s feature film 5 Weddings has been banned in Kuwait for the inclusion of transgender characters.
The film, which is set to open in more than 15 countries including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Russia, India and United Kingdom, on October 26, follows the story of a journalist who travels to India to work on a story about Indian wedding ceremonies. The film also features Hijras, a sect of transgender dancers who have been an integral part of Indian wedding tradition for centuries — which is why Kuwait has decided to ban the film.
“It is shocking to me that in 2018 — an entire nation would ban a film because it has transgender characters. Why? Are they not human?” Gujral told Deadline. “I can tell you stories from Censors around the world that will make your head spin. I feel so blessed to live in a country where we have freedom of speech and can live and let live.”
In an effort for inclusion, Gujral cast transgender Indian actors in these roles to honor their role in her culture and the world. Gujral said that she didn’t know if the ladies from the Hijra community would be willing to be in the film, but she decided to hold auditions anyway. The next day, she said she had a line of beautiful ladies ready to audition.
“In particular, one bowled me over,” she said. “When asked why she wanted to be a part of the film, instead of saying she wanted to famous or wanted to be an actress, she simply said: ‘I want to tell my story truthfully. Yes, we behave larger than life in public. But within our walls — we are just people. With hearts that beat just like the rest of the world.’
Gujral continued, “I first tried to hold back my tears….I then hired her.”
Watch exclusive clips from the film featuring Hijras below:
Kuwait isn’t the only country that has taken issue with the inclusion with transgender actors. Malaysia approved the film — but with 21 cuts in a 90-minute film, all of which exclude the transgender characters. Other countries are also considering banning the film which is rated PG in English-speaking countries and is a family film. The news comes in the wake of the Trump administration proposing limiting gender definitions to a label given at birth and determined by genitalia.
5 Weddings joins the new wave of Asian narratives in film that was started in “Asian August” with Crazy Rich Asians. The film tells a story of culture clashes, romance, comedy, and the universal ups and downs of an Indian wedding celebration
The film stars Rajkummar Rao (India’s official entry to Academy Awards 2018 Newton), Nargis Fakhri (Bollywood blockbuster Rockstar), Academy Award-nominated actress Candy Clark, and Hollywood icon Bo Derek. The film comes from Uniglobe Entertainment, Amaash Films, and Vision Films.