A New Look at Transgender
Director Eisha Manjara’s “Venus” is a story of family values in the East and how they can never keep up with the West. Sid (Debargo Sanyal) is a transgender woman living in Montreal dealing with a traditional family. Things get even more complicated when it is revealed that Sid has a 14-year-old son. Here is a look at gender and identity politics that is welcoming on all sides of the issue.
Sid is an independent, professional, feisty, and sassy trans woman who chooses to live life on her own terms. In the process, she manages to overcome all odds: societal, familial, and personal and to assert her freedom to be able to live as she chooses. We see Sid and her intimate relationships, as the reality of transitioning and surgery weighs heavily.
The film begins with Sid being chased by a young Ralph (Jamie Myers) who comes out to her as her biological son. Sid apparently dated Ralph’s mother Kirsten many years ago. Sid is now finally taking the leap and transitioning Ralph shows up to claim the privileges of paternity.
Sid is frustrated by Ralph’s appearance in her life and she has a bit of denial and suspicious reticence. Ralph is escaping the neglect of his own household, where his mother’s new husband, Max (Peter Miller), continues to be the cause of his strained mother-son relationship. At the same time, Sid has been trying to move beyond Daniel (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), who has left her emotionally distraught.
Ralph and Sid somehow find comfort together. The coming together is not without problems but the solace that the two have found is heartwarming. But we later find intrigue and secrets between families, Sid’s overbearing mother (Zena Daruwalla) and father (Gordon Warnecke) have something to say as Sid continues to work through the emotional entanglements that tie her to Daniel.
The film is filled with Punjabi family charm and a love story that has room for personal reflections. Venus is both charming and hilarious and one trans person’s story that looks to explore life beyond the stereotypes, beyond the usual coming out and unexpected parenthood. The Ralph-Sid relationship is an emotional highlight but the real angst is left for Daniel and Sid to live through.
We begin to dig deeper for inner strength and transcending the boundaries that we set for ourselves. Sid is forced to entertain the curious and very persistent Ralph while at the same time navigating fraught relationships with her traditional Punjabi parents.
“Venus” also presents us with the hopeful idea that if a kid can embrace one’s gender identity (“My dad’s transgender. That is so cool,” remarks Ralph during one his first encounters with Sid), anyone can”).
“Venus” is not only about gender and what that means in today’s world, but the clash of culture and generations and this provides a lot of laughs in that neither mother nor son understand each other. What really takes this movie to another level is the pitch-perfect performance of Sanyal which is an absolute joy to watch. He avoids all the clichés of over-playing his character and he gives her dignity and a presence that lights up the screen.