A modern love story: Deepmala on her short ‘Ek Jhalak’ with transgender actor Disha Yadav

The director on her months-long search for the perfect actor, highlighting the achievements of transgenders, and how such projects are a break from making commercial ad films

September 16, 2021 10:57 am | Updated 11:46 am IST

A still from the film

A still from the film

When director Deepmala started writing her second short fiction film Ek Jhalak , she organically gravitated towards a community she had worked with in the past. “I’ve always had a soft spot for transgenders. I’ve made films on social issues with different governmental agencies and ministries, including the National Aids Control Organization (NACO) for whom I made documentaries on HIV. During one such project, I got a chance to work closely with the transgender community,” says the Delhi-based director.

Director Deepmala

Director Deepmala

The 19-minute short starring Amit Sadh in the lead, along with Sushma Seth, Ashish Ghosh and Zeeshan Ayyub as the narrator, revolves around a single father (Naman) who becomes attracted to his new neighbour without having met her. Through the course of Ek Jhalak , he catches glimpses of her and discovers facets that intrigue him. The enigmatic neighbour, Rasika, is played by Disha Yadav, a transgender actor. “I never thought of getting a non-transgendered actor for this role. It would not have been authentic,” says Deepmala, who directed the 2018 short film, Ek Koshish . It took the 40-year-old over three months to find the perfect actor. “There was a very specific look that I had in mind when I wrote Rasika. We met with and auditioned a lot of actors from the community, but I couldn’t find my Rasika. Someone suggested Disha’s name and, even though she hadn’t acted much in the past, as soon as I met her I knew she was great for the part,” she adds.

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The big reveal

Trained as a broadcast journalist, Deepmala worked with Star News and Zee News before she realised reporting wasn’t for her. For a little over a decade, she’s been heading The Visual House, a one-stop agency for design and communication in Faridabad, Haryana. While the work (ad films, documentaries) continues to have her full attention, her forays into fiction are more to feed her creativity. “Making films for clients was beginning to feel like a factory. I wrote Ek Jhalak about three years ago because I wanted to do something to satisfy myself artistically. It took me about an hour to write the whole screenplay,” she says.

A still from the film

A still from the film

Shot almost in sequence in Noida, UP, Deepmala didn’t allow the two main actors to meet until the last day when they shot the film’s big reveal. “I wanted Amit’s reaction to be as authentic as possible. They were both dying to meet each other but I was very strict,” she recalls with a laugh. In the film, which she describes as a ‘modern love story’, Rasika’s character is a high profile working woman and mother at the top of her game. “While I’ve seen first-hand the struggles they face, I wanted this film to highlight their achievements. There are a lot of big personalities from the transgender community who are doing really well and I wanted to celebrate that and their independence,” she concludes.

Ek Jhalak is now streaming on Amazon Mini TV.

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