Hijra representations in Bollywood : adoption and legal discourses

Hussain, Rukhsar (2021) Hijra representations in Bollywood : adoption and legal discourses. Adoption & Culture, 9 (2). pp. 276-297. ISSN 1944-4990 (https://doi.org/10.1353/ado.2021.0026)

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The paper examines the theme of adoption and motherhood in hijra representations in mainstream Indian cinema. Hijras are members of a nonbinary community in regions of South Asia who are born as males but identify mostly as females or third gender. The community is one of the most visible sexual minorities in the subcontinent and can be easily located on the streets across the country, begging, mostly, at traffic signals. They continue to live on the fringes of the mainstream society because they have no other occupation than prostitution and begging. They have also long suffered from misrepresentation in the mainstream culture which obstructs their social integration. The paper argues that adoption and motherhood, which are central to hijra identities, and also to the formation of hijra kinship ties, are almost always presented as "unnatural" and criminal in the Indian mainstream commercial films, demonizing the community. In an in-depth analysis of two Indian films, Darmiyaan and Tamanna, I argue that they offer sustained representations of hijra kinship ties, focusing on key themes of adoption and nonbiological parenting, and challenge the conventional idea of "motherhood." Following in the footsteps of scholars such as David Eng, Kim Park Nelson, and Peggy Phelan, this paper critically studies hijra initiation practice with an intersectional lens in order to expose the structural inequalities of race, class, and religion in hijra filmic representations. Thus, this paper starts a conversation in the area of queer, non-cis, community-based "adoption" from the Indian subcontinent.