Web Series: Taali
Cast: Sushmita Sen, Hemangi Kavi, Ankur Bhatia, Aishwarya Narkar, Maya Rachel McManus
Directed by: Ravi Jadhav
Rating: 4 Moons
Sushmita Sen has proved her mettle as an actress in 2.0 innings of her career. What started with Aarya, is continuing with Taali. In her career's till date best performance, Sushmita brings to life transgender activist Shreegauri Sawant's journey to life in Jio Cinema's latest series. Directed by Ravi Jadhav, the six-part show is worth your time, and you won't be able to escape without clapping for Sushmita.
The story begins with the journey of Ganesh (yonger part played by Krutika Deo), who feels alienated in his own body and struggles to understand what is going on with him. There is a scene in the show where Ganesh's teacher asks her students what they would like to be in the future. Contrary to the expected answer of being an inspector like his father, Ganesh says, “I want to be a mother." The classroom bursts in laughter. That one moment is the foundation of the series - Ganesh’s journey from ‘Gaali to Taali’ aka Gauri Sawant, who wanted to become a mother since childhood.
There are painful moments where Ganesh fails to express. His mother is understanding, but his conservative father (Nandu Madhav) takes him to a sex clinic to get hormonal medication in order to stop his assumedly weird behavior and desires. Things change, when Ganesh's mother passes away and he runs away from home.
In another noteworthy scene we have Ganesh’s sex reassignment surgery, embarking on the journey to become Gauri, which is full of challenges. Taali also throws the light on other members of the community, unmasking what otherwise presume the realities of the third vertical. Gauri Sawant’s character proclaims that her fight is for ‘identity, survival, and equality’ and there are several moments in the show that will break your heart, especially how earlier transpeople were treated in the society.
Besides gender inequality, the series also highlights the child abandonment practice. Taali manages to capture the beautiful relationship Gauri shares with her adopted children, also giving her the feeling of being a mother - that she always wanted to be.
Fair to say, Sushmita deserves a standing ovation for infusing life into Gauri's character. She adapts to Shreegauri like a second skin with wide eyes, a strong pitch in her voice like echoing like a man, body language and those the look - it fits her like a glove. Sushmita has essayed Gauri with such grace, strength and dignity that at no point you feel her portrayal of Ganesh is caricature-ish. Sushmita 's Miss Universe walk to step into the shoes of a transgender is a rude awakening to the makers who failed to utilise the actress to her potential in her 30-year long career.
The debate casting a trans actor to play the central part comes to rest as Sushmita breathes life into the series with much passion, and helps overlook an otherwise simplistic approach to the story.
Taali by no means is perfect, but perfect is Sushmita Sen. Director Ravi Jadhav, known for his work in Marathi cinema, has often dealt with subjects like gender identity in a manner like ‘Balgandharva’ and ‘Balak-Palak’. His work in Taali is mature, not preachy. Created by Arjun Singgh Baran and Kartik D Nishandar, Taali faulters at writer Kshitij Patwardhan's desk. Too much material, shown in an easier, palpable format could have done with more hard hitting moments. Nonetheless, it doesn't take away from their laurels to bring such a brave story to celluloid. Gauri's fight when subjugated to the Supreme Court's corridors, could have had more dialogue. But barring the few roadblocks, we are here to laud for the courage of Gauri and Sushmita!