In the first frame of the documentary ‘Her name is Sowmiya,' Sowmiya is looking confidently into the future. A black and white pencil sketch of hers slowly fades to colour to reveal the lines on her face, the colour of her t-shirt, and heaviness in her eyes. We then hear her laugh, see her clutch on dearly to her vibrant umbrella, and we wonder what happened to her.
Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender rights activist, who runs the NGO, ‘Sahodari,' has in this short movie, juxtaposed amateur webcam videos, phone videos, and footage shot on a handycam of a happy Sowmiya, who allegedly committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 26. This was one of the two documentaries screened by Sahodari Foundation along with Chennai Rainbow Coalition as part of the LGBT pride month celebrations. The other movie documents Kalki's only meeting with Anil Sadanandan, the gay rights activist who was allegedly killed in May in Kerala.
“Sowmiya had been a little depressed for sometime, and the guy she loved had stopped talking to her,” observed Kalki. She described Sowmiya as someone who wanted to be happy, and who was not interested in activism. During the 10-minutes of the documentary, there is hardly a frame where Sowmiya is not smiling or laughing, be it while she was walking on a railway platform, cutting her birthday cake or sitting with her friends.
“The life of a transgender is tough and many have this thought at least once in their lifetime. When Sowmiya died, the family dealt with it like the death of a man,” said Kalki.