With films and documentaries such as ‘The Incredible Shrinking Woman’ (1994) and ‘Desperately Seeking Helen’ (1999) already having received critical acclaim, Canadian director Eisha Marjara has always been sought after. This year the London Indian Film Festival brings forward one of Marjara’s most compelling dramas about love, relationships and being one’s true self, in the form of ‘Venus’.
Though extremely sure of who he wants to be, Sid Gill (Debargo Sanyal) is beginning to start his journey transitioning from male to female. This in itself being no easy task is complicated even further when he finds he has a teenage son from a past relationship that ended on bad terms. With the boy, Ralph (Jamie Myers), searching for his own closure, it compels Sid to draw towards him, however; forming a close and warm relationship between the two. Also, where Sid’s Punjabi mother (Zena Darawalla) battles with her own emotions of her son’s life, this is helped by the introduction to her grandson. However, where Sid seems to have it all, which includes a man that loves her, she eventually finds herself on her own journey of self-discovery from a perspective that reaches further than her physical transition, where she not only grows into a confident woman but one that reveals from those around her.
Marjara’s talent shines through this film brilliantly. Here she has made a simple yet very important story. She has been clever in making a lighthearted film, concentrating on the aspect of family, love, relationships and bonding where it’s easy for everyone to enjoy. This has also worked cleverly in having the audiences experience the normality of a transgender; where she represents Sid as just another person who faces many of the same dilemmas others do, making this watch something audiences will be able to relate to in some way shape or form. This is something which can be a challenge for many filmmakers tackling similar subjects.
Sanyal is a wonderful on screen. His confident and likable presence is so forthcoming that at times he’s the one the viewers’ eyes are drawn to despite there being others in the same space. Playing his role perfectly, he manages to intrigue his viewers so excellently and makes them feel they are travelling with him on the same journey. Child actors are normally difficult to come around, and finding one to play the role of Ralph could only come with its own troubles. However, Myers makes it all worth it, adding much of the comedy and innocence to the film. Here, he portrays a boy who is simply looking for attention and bonding, and as many children do, isn’t withered physicalities or sexual orientation. His comical performance is displayed perfectly, where his adolescent personality makes his companionship with Sid all the more admiring. Playing the Punjabi mother, Darawalla is the one much of the older generation of viewers may relate to. It becomes evident that she was extremely careful in how she portrayed her character, whereby instead of overplaying her character’s emotions, it seems she places herself in her character’s shoes, defying love over everything else. The likes of Pierre-Yves Cardinal, who plays Sanyal’s closeted love interest and Gordon Warnecke who plays the supportive father, add perfect pieces of the film’s puzzle, and where both play thought-provoking roles, representing almost opposites in Sid’s life.
Overall, ‘Venus’ is a film that will have the audiences chuckling in their seats at all the right moments, but will also have them think about their own take on relationships. Marjara has made a brilliant fun filled film with a very important message of figuring out what’s really important.
‘Venus’ runs as part of the 9th edition of the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival, that runs at 15 cinemas, across London, Birmingham and Manchester, from 21st June to 1st July, with 27 films, including features and short films, in competition. It is the largest South Asian film festival in Europe. Buy your tickets via this website, at respective cinema box offices: http://