‘Amma’s pride’ tells the story of Tamil Nadu’s first registered marriage of a transwoman and a man

The 20-minute documentary film is set to premiere at the 64th Krakow Film Festival in Poland on May 29

Updated - May 20, 2024 11:57 pm IST

Published - May 20, 2024 02:49 pm IST

Shiva Krish during the filming of the documentary

Shiva Krish during the filming of the documentary | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

This is not your average love story. Of course, it starts with two people falling in love. But what makes it extraordinary is their journey: the first registered marriage in Tamil Nadu, of P Srija, a Thoothukudi-based transwoman and B Arun Kumar, a cis-gender male, was extensively covered by the media when the news broke in 2019. When documentary filmmaker Shiva Krish came across the story, he saw the potential it had, and immediately started research for what would become his first independent documentary film, Amma’s Pride.

The film is set to premiere at the 64th Krakow Film Festival in Poland on May 29 this year. It is being produced by Chithra Jeyaram, a US-based filmmaker and D’Lo, a queer/transgender Tamil-Sri Lankan-American actor, writer and comic.

When Shiva, who is based in Chennai, reached out to the couple, they did have inhibitions about sharing their story with an outsider. But gradually, they let Shiva into their lives, and his camera, from the end of 2019 to 2023, captured 40 hours of footage shot at various intervals. The 31-year-old filmmaker has previously worked with several NGOs, interacting with people from the LGBT community, which helped him approach the story with sensitivity.

A still from the film

A still from the film | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“Love is love, no matter what gender one is of,” says Shiva, adding that he set out to document Srija and Arun’s story based on this view. But as he got to know the couple and their family, he discovered the source of their strength: Srija’s mother. “I discovered this over the process,” he says, adding that the specialty of documentary filmmaking is that when the filmmaker spends time with the people being filmed, he discovers such gems.

“She is Srija’s diving force,” he says, “Srija is able to achieve so much in life because of her mother.” Which is why eventually, he started telling the couple’s story through the eyes of Srija’s mother, Valli. “During my research for the film, I read that the acceptance rate for trans people in India is just 2%. Srija, who is within this miniscule percentage, is now where she is because of family support. Imagine what a similar support system could do for the rest of the 98%,” says Shiva.

Filmmaker Shiva Krish

Filmmaker Shiva Krish | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Valli acccepted Srija for who she was, which made all the difference to her daughter’s life. Shiva hopes to drive home this message through his 20-minute-long documentary film, that has music by Karthikeya Murthy; Venkat Ramanan CS is the co-producer and editor.

Shiva says that editing the film took him over a year. “Editing shapes a documentary film. It is what writing is to fiction,” he points out. Once Amma’s Pride starts the festival rounds, Shiva says that he will simultaneously look for ways to distribute it, and is open to doing so on any platform. But more importantly, he has planned social impact campaigns surrounding the film in major cities in India and the US. “These are events that will raise awareness on the subject by starting a discussion,” he says, adding: “I know things cannot change over night, but it must be remembered that cinema is a powerful tool.”

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