The director has denied that Anjali was deliberately left out, blaming it on coincidences.

Aruvi controversy Was transgender actor Anjali sidelined after success of filmAnjali (Emily) with Aditi (Aruvi). Screenshot.
Flix Controversy Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 16:12

Anybody who has watched the Tamil movie Aruvi which released in 2017, will remember the character of Emily with great clarity. A transgender woman, Emily was the main character Aruvi’s friend, companion and confidante in the low budget movie that has since received multiple laurels.

For once, the character of a trans woman was played by a trans woman, and the role was portrayed with great sensitivity. It was actor Anjali, a professional bharatanatyam dancer, who brought life to this character; to say that Anjali did justice to highly emotional role given to her is an understatement.

But shortly after the release of the film, activists allege that the crew has refused to give Anjali her due when it comes to recognition.

In a scathing Facebook post, transgender rights activist Olga Aaron said that Anjali was not called for award functions and even a meeting with superstar Rajinikanth.

"Anjali is a trans woman, who had done one of the important role in recent hit movie 'Aruvi'. She is a very simple girl a budding Bharatnatyam dancer in the shadow her trans woman sister Ponniabinaya Ponniabinaya, with simple ideology that is to live a very quiet, dignified life. She has no access to social media due to lack of exposure,” Olga wrote in her Facebook post.

Alleging that Anjali was paid less than the other actors who worked in Aruvi, although she was extensively used, Olga said, “But during celebrating of success of the film, the crew neither include nor involve her."

The activist said that Anjali was not informed of the team's meeting with superstar Rajinikanth nor about her bagging the Best Supporting Actress award at the Norway Tamil Film festival.

"Among friends and movie goers circle her performance is well appreciated, but in public recognition she is not involved. She was not informed while meeting Rajinikanth. If Rajinikanth has seen the film but not recognized Emily is absolutely not possible. Vikatan fail to choose her for her supporting role, wonder weather its their inappropriate parameter for selection or just took it easy only because she is a Transwoman. Recent recognition of Norway Tamils just not informed to her,” Olga said.

Calling it a major injustice to Anjali, Olga said, “As usual the film industry do it again to the trans girl from the suppressed social status. However Anjali Varathan proved that as a trans woman, if provided with the right choice, we prove our excellence. But request film industry to recognize the hard work without bias.”


Anjali is a Transwoman, who had done one of the important role in recent hit movie 'Aruvi'. She is a very simple girl a...

Posted by Olga Aaron on Saturday, 27 January 2018

In response to the allegations, the director of Aruvi, Arun Prabhu denied that information was not being passed on to Anjali. He claimed that it was only a series of coincidences that Anjali was not taken to the Vikatan Awards function, or to meet Rajinikanth.

"We deal with all actors the same way. It was superstar Rajinikanth's manager who called and told us that we could visit him. This was based on Aditi Balan's request for a photo with him. We cannot insist that he call the others also," Arun told TNM.

On being asked about the Norway Tamil film festival, the director said, "There has been no official information or call from the Film Festival organisers. I saw it on Twitter two days ago and shared it, that was all. Even Aditi Balan and the editor of the film who have won didn't get any calls."

He also vehemently denied that Anjali was paid less than other actors. "That is factually wrong. We actually paid Anjali better than other actors as her role was more important. We even fixed our shooting schedules based on her availability," he said.

When asked about why Anjali was not invited to the Ananda Vikatan awards the director said, "We got 12 tickets. But I had not represented my assistant directors anywhere. So I wanted to bring them. I didn't even take my own family."

Olga however dismissed the director's defense. "Anjali is soft spoken and is not social media savvy. It is the duty of the director to ensure that she is informed. The attitude of the crew is not right. She is not looking for fame, but that does not mean you don’t recognise her hard work," she said.

"So far trans persons are only shown as nasty characters in films. For once that has changed, but due recognition has not been given," she added.

When TNM contacted actor Anjali over the controversy, she said, "Yes I did not know about the crew visiting Rajinikanth or about the Norway awards. But that doesn’t affect my work. I did what I had to for the film,” making it clear that the lack of recognition does not affect her professionalism.

"They did call me a couple times in the beginning, but I had other commitments. And after that, I haven’t got any calls from them recently," she added.

However, Anjali said, "It will be nice to be recognised because it would be a boost for our whole community.”