Ek Jagah Apni, from the Corresponds Ektara Collective, is set throughout Bhopal, inside the centre Indian state of MP. It continues to follow transgender women Laila (Manisha Soni) as well as Roshni (Muskaan) as they look for alternative housing after one’s landlord tried to evict them without notice. It draws attention to the daily harassments and discriminations people face, but it also delves deeper to paint a fuller picture of lives that oscillate between a pervasive sense of struggle and happy times.
Following 2017’s Checkmate, this is the second film from the Ektara Cooperative, an independent collective of filmmakers that creates movies about it and featuring marginalised and oppressed populations. A Place Of Our Own received funding from fellowships, artist support programmes including reFrame’s Genderalities, and crowdsourcing. It was then shown as a part of this year’s NFDC Comes To Cannes Initiative after receiving a Special Recognition at the Job Lab at the NFDC Film Bazaar 2021. It presently runs in category at the Film Festival International of Kerala after having its international premiere in Tokyo (IKFF).
A Place Of Our Own, like the previous films of the Ektara Collective, aims to use cinema as a tool of empowerment by giving the transgender community creative control over its own narrative. The screenplay, which is based on real-life events like the Covid-19 crisis, was written by Maheen Mirza and Rinchin with input from the players and features non-professional actors as well as Muskaan and Manisha Soni the trans women in pivotal roles.
How Ek Jagah Apni, the most recent film from Ektara Collective
This means that the movie examines Laila and Roshni’s encouraging relationships in addition to the poisonous workplaces and uncaring family that have abandoned them while they are trying to find a new home. In addition to gender and sexuality-related issues, caste- and class-based injustices also fall under this category. Laila and Roshni’s efforts to stand up for themselves and claim their rightful recognition in a prejudiced society are represented metaphorically by the hunt for a home.
There seem to be a few meticulously staged conflict sequences, as when a journalist who seems liberal tries to question the two of them in a way that is intentionally confrontational. Laila mentioning a secluded cottage on a beach as the dream house, far from the light of civilization, is one of many seemingly insignificant events that has a greater impact. The actual strength of the movie, however, resides in its straightforward, unadorned honesty, which allows a viewer to identify with Laila and Roshni’s concerns and respect their humour and elegance under pressure. They never give in to cynicism, bitterness, defeat, or feeling like a victim.
Without aiming to polish the clumsy narrative setting, cinematography is successful and technically proficient. Additionally, Ektara Collective avoids superfluous intricacy; performances are natural, the story is simple, and dialogue is in plain Hindi.
It is supported by a gorgeous soundtrack, whose compositions are steeped in Indian syncretic culture and performed by a wide range of artists. Songs like “Begumpura,” for instance, are based on the poet-saint Raidas’ lyrical ideal of communal peace. The movie is filled with music, which acts as a philosophical reaction to the prejudices and distinctions that are criticised throughout the plot.