When the trailer for the contentious MX original series, “Pati Patni Aur Panga” was released on December 5, it attracted shockwaves of criticism towards itself. It was labelled as a long, commercialized way of promoting transphobic thinking and turning a trans person’s rich and complex experience into a mere joke. Before we unpack the heavy allegations slapped by the youth on social media, let’s have a look at the storyline and trailer of the controversial series.
With actors, Naveen Kasturia and Adah Sharma in the lead, the series is meant to be a lighthearted comedy-drama. The story follows Naveen Kasturia, who plays a small-time sub-broker, and how he meets Adah Sharma while showing her a house and then falls in love with her. The conflict arises when he discovers that he married a transwoman (who are still real women) which causes him to have a complete breakdown as if it were the end of the world. The whole show revolves around the revelation of Adah Sharma’s “hidden past” - that “she was a man before” and how Kasturia is now “stuck in a marriage” with a transwoman, who he views as a man. Reading the synopsis may have already given you a clue as to why people are furious with such a narrative existing in the year 2020.
A closer look at the trailer of “Pati Patni Aur Panga”
The trailer opens with the lead, Naveen Kasturia and his mother nervously speaking to a lawyer to apply for a divorce. When asked why he wants to divorce his wife, Kasturia hesitantly says, “She was a man before marriage.” It then skips to a romantic montage of how the couple met, spent quality time together and got married - Kasturia’s character clearly didn’t have any issues with Adah at the time. When the big reveal comes, we watch Adah Sharma grossly simplify the experience of a transwoman with the dialogues - “Six-months-ago, I was a boy. I had a sex change operation to become a girl. Before I was Shiv, now I am Shivani.”
After the cat’s out of the bag, the trailer gives us a glimpse of the stereotypical and misinformed comments his friends and family made about Adah’s gender. Lines such as “What do you feed your son that he doesn’t understand the difference between guys and girls?”, “I’ve got a question. Does she have hair on her chest” and “It’s God’s work to make an individual male or female,” belittle a transperson’s struggle for cheap thrills and, in a way, demotivates them to come out publicly. It ends with a clip of Adah Sharma urinating at the side of a road while standing up (which is supposed to be comedic) while Kasturia stares at her in disbelief.
Twitter users label the show, Pati Patni Aur Panga as transphobic
Ever since release, the Pati Patni Aur Panga trailer has gotten immense flak on social media accusing the series of being “transphobic” and “offensive”. Others also questioned why Adah Sharma, a cisgender woman played the role of a trans woman when a trans person could have been cast. Some feel the show ought to put a huge “trigger warning” before every episode due to the demeaning jokes cracked at the expense of trans people and how they only stigmatised the group further.
There’s an online petition circulating which wants the show to be pulled down. It says, “The misogyny, transphobia (and transphobic language) and misappropriation of queer narratives in this show is not acceptable to the trans community, lgbtq+ community and our allies.” The lead actors have praised the show for “breaking stereotypes” but Twitter users are sceptical of that claim and have raised concerns over the misinformation about trans people the series is allegedly promoting. Here are some tweets speaking about the same:
What have the actors said about the series?
The actors appear oblivious to the show’s alleged misrepresentation of trans people as last week, Adah Sharma commended the show for throwing light on “stereotypes that exist in our society.” She had also tweeted a clip from the trailer saying, “never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to do a role like this !! I’m the luckiest girl alive,” following it up by saying, “I hope we make the LGBTQIA community proud with this.”
Her co-star Naveen Kasturia applauded the idea behind the unconventional series, calling it a “lighthearted comedy with a social message”. In an interview with India West, he said, “Working with Adah has been so much fun and Abir has blended the story very well for the audiences to be entertained, understand and also beautifully bring out the underlying message. Working on this project, personally, has been a wonderful experience for me.” The series is set to release on MX Player on December 11 and while the cast and crew of the show are elated about the show, there’s a section of people online who are extremely disappointed and enraged by it.