Things are going in a perfect direction for Pakistani artists and they are earning big international awards.
As Joyland made everyone proud and achieved big milestones. Along with that one of the actors who appeared on the Cannes red carpet and became the first transgender actor “Alina Khan” became part of the joy.
Alina Khan undoubtedly became the limelight of the evening and with his transformation grabbed everyone’s attention as well. She sat down with Vogue India for a little chit-chat in which she talked about her appearance at Cannes and her career so far.
Alina Khan is Pakistan’s first transgender actor
While talking to Vogue India, Alina shared that “I returned to Pakistan from France a week ago and I have already visited my family home thrice— I even spent a night there,” Khan told the publication over a Zoom conversation. “Joyland’s win at Cannes means so much to me because I play a trans dancer in the film the same identity that I have been shunned for all my life won us this award.”
She sighed and further added, “My family always thought I would bring shame to them, only Ammi would speak to me for a few minutes while the others cut me off. Now, they are actually proud of my success and that makes me the happiest,” she said, adding that she’s still brutally aware that she is a long way from being accepted. “I never understand this because the same women call us home to bless their children at the time of their birth.”
Fear of attraction
She shared, that when she visited back she was offered to accompany her sister to the local market and was devastated when she declined for the fear of attracting attention. Yet the actor holds little malice. “In society, people are given Taleem (education) but not Tarbiyat (bringing up).
They need to be taught that we are part of the same community for us to eventually be treated normally,” she said. “Everyone from the team helped with my wardrobe and presentation. I was very relieved when the people at Cannes were unbothered by my gender and only focused on my work,” she commented.
Vogue India was not only interested in knowing her story, but Pakistani media outlets also had a conversation with her when she returned home.
She talked about turning her dream into reality, “As a child, I would wear a dupatta (scarf) and dance around my house,” Khan recalled, “My father used to say that I would become an actor. Allah turned his words into reality.”
Biba in Joyland
Alina also talked about her character in Joyland Biba. “I was very fond of acting since I was a child, but I wasn’t sure that there would be any opportunities available for trans women to work on screen,” she shared.
“But when Saim offered me the chance to work on this film, I made sure to leave all of my other commitments behind so I could give this role everything that I have. Saim would give me the script, and I would closely go over every line and study it closely to see what it reveals about Biba’s character.”
Alina continued, that she hoped her movie would contribute to Pakistanis’ acceptance of transgender people as full citizens, enabling more trans women to live with their families and lead regular lives:
“Because I am a trans, I have grown up facing a lot of stigmas, even from my own house. My brother and sisters would call me the slur, khusra. But through this film, I want people to accept trans women into their families, and show them that just like me, they want to live with their families and just have normal lives.”
“My parents have begun to accept me for who I am and have seen that being a trans woman isn’t only about prostitution or begging, but there are trans women who are working in fields like acting and are making a lot of money and are famous worldwide,”
Over the moon
Ever since Joyland was featured at Cannes, Alina’s Instagram filled with some of the greatest moments with her team in France.
Sharing her moments with her team, she wrote “So proud to have a Jury prize at Cannes film fest 2022, this is like a dream come true where I have to be the one responsible person from my entire trans community of Pakistan to go and collect it along with the other team members of Joyland.”
She added, “This was the main motive to be on the roads of Cannes which got me my success and I’m so much thankful to my lord who graced me and the entire cast of Joyland jury award.”
In another post she shared, she shared, “Awards night at Cannes film festival for our film, Joyland, where we won two awards. The jury prize at Un Certain Regard category and the Queer Palme Award. The happiest day of my life.”
‘I auditioned through an NGO’ – Alina Khan
Alina Khan further shared her experience working in award-winning featured films. She auditioned for the film through an NGO without being an actor in Sadiq’s 2019 short film Darling. Then eventually the project landed on her lap and she continued working with him.
“My character Biba and I share a similar struggle,” Khan told AFP. “But Biba is angrier than I am.” Khan, who saw Joyland for the first time at the Cannes festival, said she felt proud and emotional during the screening.
“I tried to keep it together because I didn’t want to make a mess, but the reception was overwhelming. Some people in the audience started crying and I then I couldn’t help myself, so I cried, too,” she said.
She wrapped up the interview by stating, “It’s an ensemble film that deals with men, women, and gender politics and issues of various kinds that almost everybody can relate to,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting for the audience back home.”
Khan said the film’s main takeaway for transgender people was: “People from the trans community can do anything they want to do, just like any man or any woman”.
Everyone who contributed to Joyland enjoyed the moment, even Abdullah Siddiqui also shared his joy as he produced music for the featured film and felt grateful for working on the project.
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