Dvamdva: A flawed film with a powerful commentary on gender identity

Karishma Jangid
New Update

Kling Johnson's 'Dvamdva' might falter in execution, but its portrayal of Chukki’s struggle with gender identity leaves a lasting impact. This Kannada film was screened at the Kashish Pride Film Festival.

While watching this movie, I was upset by its poor quality. The writing, direction, acting, and everything else made the film look like a fifth-grade play. However, it has stayed with me. Long after seeing it, my thoughts still return to the film. Why? In this review, I intend to explore that.

Sukesh, also known as Chukki (Rajendra Nayak), lives in the coastal town of Udupi. Born male, he feels like a woman. He plays female characters in local Yakshagana plays and is happy and fulfilled. The only problem is that society won't let him be. His family constantly asks him to act like a man and get a decent job. His father’s friend asks him for sex because he behaves like a woman. He also struggles to find a lover. Eventually, he meets Akash, a widower, who accepts him. But how long will this acceptance last? Can Chukki ever trust anyone besides himself?

Also Read: Kashish Pride Film Festival Day 4: The Girls Shorts collection brought out different layers of being queer in the modern world

The script is highly predictable. Most of the twists and turns are old and the surprises are half-baked. The dialogues sound like they belong in a textbook. The art of Yakshagana also adds nothing to the film except aesthetics. Whether it's the romance or the emotions, everything feels staged. I blame the actors too. Almost all the supporting actors just stand in front of the camera and deliver their lines without expressions. What especially irks me is that a film brave enough to address gender and sexuality shies away from intimate scenes. It doesn’t fully commit to its commentary, which affects the viewing experience. It's as if the filmmaker had bold ideas but was too shy to execute them.

Why do I still find this film remarkable? Chukki’s face comes to my mind often. Despite the film’s flaws, Chukki’s innocence tugs at your heart. Chukki doesn’t want much from life, just a family, a lover, and Yakshagana. Our society is cruel enough to deny even these basics. Rajendra has put his heart and soul into his portrayal of Chukki, making it impossible not to root for him. Chukki’s win feels like your own and his loss feels like your loss. Even if not cinematically flawless, some films are important if they show us something we need to see. Dvamdva is one such film. It breaks the myth that gender identity is a Western or urban concept. It provides dignity to anyone who struggles with their gender identity. Maybe while watching Dvamdva, our need for entertainment can take a backseat, as the importance of its message remains urgent and relevant.

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Kashish 2024 film festival Dvamdva