Bombay Eunuch | Chicago Reader

Bombay Eunuch

Once believed to possess divine powers, hijra (Hindi for castrated men) are now outcast in India, shunned by their families and feared for their curses. In this 2001 video, documentarians Alexandra Shiva, Sean MacDonald, and Michelle Gucovsky explore the tight-knit subculture of a hijra commune in a Bombay ghetto, its members reduced to begging and prostitution and plagued by HIV. Those interviewed are invariably candid, disclosing similar backgrounds yet uncertain why they chose the knife; they think of themselves as genderless but carry on like drag queens, watched over by a feisty and resourceful matriarch named Meena. Shiva's voice-over narration and the commentary from academics (all in English) are spiked with gender-studies jargon but illuminate the history of this peculiar underclass, over 1.3 million strong, which is beginning to gather political power. In Hindi and Tamil with subtitles. 71 min.

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