More than the appreciation that came her way, what makes model-turned-actor Anjali Ameer happier is how Peranbu successfully upends certain prejudices about the trans community. “Transgenders, transsexuals, transvestites etc. are in fact different from each other. Many do not realise that,” she says over phone from Kozhikode where she currently resides.
Anjali plays Meera, a trans woman, in the Ram-directed Mammootty-starrer that has been winning plaudits. What made Meera connect with the audience is probably the message that peranbu (great love) also resides in hearts we fail to see. “I received a lot of congratulatory messages. But what was more uplifting was that many who had previously shown antipathy towards me as a trans person expressed a change of heart. They acknowledged that they could see the transgender community in a new light through Meera,” says Anjali. Born as Jamsheer in Thamarassery, the 28-year-old entered the film industry after walking the ramp for several years. The BSW graduate officially changed her name in 2014. “Anjali, it’s a name I love. I don’t really know why the fascination. May be because it's the name of a character in a Hindi serial I used to follow when I was young,” she says with a laugh.
Anjali says Mammootty himself recommended her name to director Ram for the role in Peranbu after watching a documentary on her, and she has words of admiration for the star. “That [working with Mammootty] was like a dream. Though I liked acting, I had never given it a serious thought to take it to the next level. So when Ram sir called me, it was a huge surprise,” she says. Though the film’s shooting was completed in 2016, it had a long festival run before its theatrical release earlier this month.
She credits director Ram for his “realistic” filmmaking, especially in etching Meera on the screen, claiming that it clears some misunderstandings about the community. “Usually in films, trans persons are portrayed in a negative vein, either as economically exploitative or as grotesque or comic figures. But Peranbu highlights that we too have natural feelings of love, wishes and ambitions, the desire to lead a better life when given the right circumstances and that we too want to lead a peaceful marital life,” explains Anjali, who had undergone a sex-change surgery in 2015.
Most of the scenes featuring Meera was set and shot in Chennai, a place not completely new to Anjali. “I had left home when I was 15 due to certain differences with my family and ended up being a part of a Malayali transgender family in Chennai. But I never picked up any Tamil as I was there only for a brief period and also we conversed only in Malayalam,” she says. But Anjali enjoyed the process of dubbing for Peranbu , asking with a giggle to double check: “don’t you think I got the inflexions correct?”
Anjali made a brief appearance in Suvarna Purushan released last year, before making a wild card entry in Bigg Boss Malayalam. “There was a Tamil movie I was doing but, unfortunately, the project was scrapped mid-way,” she says. However, Peranbu has catapulted her into the spotlight and Anjali is excited about her upcoming projects in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu where she will be seen essaying female leads. So, when not walking the ramp or facing the camera, what does she like to do? “Travelling helps me unwind. Not days-long journeys or adventure trips but I prefer short jaunts, especially to the hills,” says Anjali, determined to scale greater heights.