Contemporary World Cinema | 2016 | 105 minutes
Stranger Says: Hari is a member of a Yakshagana theater troupe, traveling around to small towns performing traditional stories from dusk to dawn. Hari is popular for his skill at playing female characters. But Hari seems less and less inclined to return to his male self: “I can’t play one self at night and another during the day.” He faces the attitudes that plague many gender-nonconforming people: Why can’t he just try to fit in? Be what they are comfortable with? But he can’t. The ideas the film looks at are interesting, but the story is slowed by lots of pouty musing. It is beautifully shot in rural India, and the performance scenes with the elaborate makeup and costumes are neat. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)
SIFF Says:“I often wonder whether I am a man playing a woman, or a woman playing a man. What am I?” In India, in the theatrical style known as yakshagana, all the parts are played by men, and female roles go to those actors who are, as one troupe director describes, “so feminine in their gestures and movements people mistake them to be women.” Hari (Shrunga Vasudevan) is one such actor, delicate, graceful, and beautiful. But despite frequent accolades, Hari has trouble turning back to male when not onstage, and gradually decides to wear female dress in everyday life. As rumors swirl, Hari finds themself unloved and unmarriable, casting a heavy burden on their more traditional family who only wish the best for their son. Frustrated with an uncaring world and seemingly trapped between identities, Hari considers leaving town and joining a new troupe, but such decisions can have grave consequences. Based on the short story by Gopalkrishna Pai, Chronicles of Hari is colorful, subtle, and quietly affecting, its focus on transgender issues a rarity in Indian cinema.
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