Cisgender actress Kubra Sait plays “Kukoo” a transgender dancer in the NetFlix original “Sacred Games”. Sait appears in four episodes of season one including one scene with “full frontal nudity” much to the critical acclaim of viewers and critics.
Who better to portray transgender women than a cisgender woman in India’s groundbreaking Netflix Original, because of course, there are no transgender dancers or actresses in India.
Seriously? How did this happen?
While Kubra Sait doesn’t have a lead role, her part is pivotal by creating unrealistic expectations of transgender people in society. This is globally problematic and troubling, some feel, contributing indirectly to ‘trans panic’ violence and murder.
The Chicken or the egg?
Some will argue that since there are few (known) transgender actors they had no choice but to cast a cis actor. Trans protagonists never fail to reply that there are so few (known) trans actors because so few get auditions let alone get parts.
Asia Times asked Kubra Sait about the process of preparing for the role of Kukoo to which Sait replied. “I actually never had the time to prepare for Kukoo. I picked up Sacred Games to read it.”
Asia Times then asked Sait “Do you think a trans person should have played the role of Kukoo, considering the trans community is under-represented in mainstream India?
Sait:Yes, it’s true. If I were a viewer and I had seen a trans person playing it, I would have been standing at the helm, applauding for the movement and applauding for the courage and applauding for the sensibilities in the transgender person. It’s heartbreaking that it hasn’t happened yet, but at the same time it’s heartwarming because it’s opened up the stream. People will not just be looked at as eunuchs or harmful or money lynchers – the stereotypes – because the transgender community is so much more – so many hardworking, lovable, beautiful people out there. I believe its time for them to receive their due credit. I’m grateful for this opportunity because it allowed me to foray into their hearts and minds even though I couldn’t meet them personally and I’m excited about that.
“I also watched The Danish Girl” Sait continues. “And that helped because the transgender movement began in the 1960s, and it’s so lovely when you see the actor just put in his life and soul and be unapologetic about who he is and who he wants to be.”
The Danish Girl was met with protests from the transgender community for casting a cis man as a transgender woman. This was probably the same man (in a dress) that Sait told the Times inspired her. Some cinemas in Brazil refused to sell transgender people tickets igniting protests to highlight the 70 trans murders that were committed in the first two months of 2016.
Kubra Sait told Mid-day that it was “the most challenging experience” of her career.
“Since there were no references, I went with my gut.” said Sait. “One may assume that playing a transgender is different, but I’m simply playing a third gender. Why should it make my acting process any different,” questions Sait, who did not flinch from going the extra mile to get into the skin of the character.
“I had worn a prosthetic penis between my thighs.” she said.
I posed the question of trans vs cis actors Vis-à-vis Sacred Games in the Facebook Group (HIT) Hub For Indian Transgender. India’s transgender community needs to have the prominent voice about this. After all, even though it affects us globally It is their country. This is about India’s trans community having a voice in what affects them.
While the respondents agreed that it would have been better if a transgender person was cast, they see it none the less as a step in the right direction for the transgender community.