6 Examples Of An Endearing Yaari, The Sisterhood Of Gauri And Nargis In Sushmita Sen’s Taali

While the heteronormative homophobic society had dealt a raw deal to both Gauri and Nargis, they had fortunately found themselves a trustworthy, reliable friendship.

Based on the real-life journey of the transgender-activist ShreeGauri Sawant, the web biopic Taali Season 1 is a likeable drama, anchored by the tenderly aching, lovely, unaffected warm friendship of transwomen, Gauri (Sushmita Sen) and Nargis (Sheetal Kale). Their bonding lends emotional punch to Taali which poignantly portrays the struggles of a transwoman to build a gender-inclusive society.

*Spoilers Alert*

Ganesh (Sushmita Sen) is rejected by his biological father because he refuses to identify with his birth-assigned sex and gender. It is by building and strengthening a fictive kinship with fellow transwomen like Nargis and Munna, Gauri a.k.a. Ganesh copes with the pain caused by her ostracism from her natal family, social persecution and marginalization.

Gauri and Nargis meet

Gauri and Nargis’ initial encounters are not sweet; later they become BFFs, and finally, with Nargis’s untimely death, their friendship ends on a sad note. For the first time, Nargis meets Ganesh before he transitions into Gauri. Ganesh visits Nargis’ brothel to educate the transgender-sex workers about healthy living. Ganesh is smitten by Nargis’ beauty and boldness. Their exchange of flirtatious and passionate looks subtly hints at sexual attraction. However, Taali only highlights their platonic friendship.

Their first meeting suggests the imminence of a close friendship between them. For instance, in the presence of Ganesh whom she hardly knows, Nargis uninhibitedly discusses with her fellow inmates about illegally disposing of the dead body of a customer without informing the police. Though Ganesh expresses his kindred with transwomen, Nargis dismisses him as an impostor who cannot empathise with the transwomen’s pain without himself undergoing castration and therefore he is unfit to advise transwomen on how they should comport themselves to enjoy social acceptance. At Nargis’ behest, Ganesh undergoes the life-threatening sex change operation and transforms himself into the more feminine Gauri. Thus, Nargis is responsible for an important life-altering event in Ganesh’s life (episode 3).

Nargis and Gauri shelter each other from violence when the need comes up

That Nargis who had formerly been a detractor of Ganesh’s ideas about the transgenders’ social uplift, transforms into Gauri’s companion and her “bodyguard” (as Nargis calls herself in episode 5) indicates the full arc of their relationship. When Ganesh a.k.a. Gauri enters the trangenders’ housing locality after undergoing castration and is in severe pain, Nargis gives him a warm embrace and welcome, lends Gauri her shoulder and offers her the balm of human connection.

That Nargis has a heart of gold is indicated when she puts her gold chain around Gauri’s neck as a memorabilia indicating her gratitude towards Gauri, who had rescued Munna from the clutches of a vicious cop, and their everlasting friendship. Though uninvited, Nargis announces that she will move into Gauri’s house. Without a second thought, Gauri shelters Nargis, and Munna, like her family members and tries her best to cater to their needs. In a peremptory fashion, Nargis demands Gauri to buy her a cot and to never let her sleep on the floor. The duo’s camaraderie over paan (betel leaves) adds a sweet depth to their relationship (episode 4).

There is no rivalry between them

Nargis celebrates Gauri’s success as a world-renowned activist-educator as her own. Metaphorically, Taali suggests that Nargis is inseparable from Gauri both in life and death. Importantly, when Gauri is recuperating on the hospital bed, a rose in a glass of water on the bedside table is zoomed in by the camera. The rose symbolizes the smell of healing. The rose’s significance in the context of Taali’s narrative is heightened because Nargis shares her name with the flower of love. Nargis is shown throughout Taali adorning her hair with roses. Thus, we are given to understand that like the rose, Nargis will also heal Gauri’s physical and emotional wounds. That Gauri values Nargis’ gold chain more than a death certificate (which she doubts the government will ever issue her because of her transgender status) and promises to cherish it always speaks volumes about their friendship (episode 4).

Never miss real stories from India's women.

Register Now

Nargis is fiercely protective of Gauri

When Navin (Ankur Bhatia), the social worker, informs Gauri that she has been invited by a US-based institute for honouring her in recognition of her social welfare activities, Nargis cautions her that it must be a hoax mail.

Gauri’s worldwide success earns her the envy of a fellow transgenders’ Guru. Nargis is the soulmate universe has sent to Gauri to protect her from harm. Nargis and Munna’s existence gives Gauri a certainty that there are people around her. (Gauri-Munna’s relationship is that of a mother and child).

Nargis averts Gauri’s death by preventing her from eating a mercury-laced paan offered to her by a rival transgender impersonating as her friend. It is heartening to watch Nargis showing maternal-like concern towards Gauri as she pulls her into her bosom and consoles her distraught friend and advises her to always remain vigilant (episode 5). It is also ironic that while Gauri a.k.a. Ganesh’s father performs her funeral when she is alive because Ganesh had gone against his wishes and underwent medical sex transition (episode 4), Nargis who is not even Gauri’s biological sibling does her best to save her life.

The very obvious close friendship vibes between Nargis and Gauri

Gauri-Nargis’ vibing—Nargis’s intimate talk with Gauri as she shares her dreams of marrying her boyfriend Muttu and happily living with him — before they drift apart at the sea shore with a setting sun in the background, which in hindsight, is their last one, pulls at your heartstrings. They part from each other without anyone having the intuition about Nargis’ approaching death. Gauri has no inkling that the man from whom she had extracted a promise to take care of her friend who was also like her sister would dump Nargis and ruin her life. When Gauri is celebrating her success, she receives the news of Nargis’ death. Her joy is short-lived as she comes to know that Nargis had committed suicide unable to survive the hardships of an unrelenting life (episode 5).

Gauri’s love for her transcends Nargis’ death

Even before Gauri can cope with the devastating shock of Nargis’ suicide, she has to confront and contend with the homophobic hospital administration. Gauri takes umbrage at the way the hospital administration has discarded Nargis’ body like the hospital waste. The scenes where Gauri is at loggerheads with the hospital administration reflect on the plight of transgenders butting up against a heteronormative, homophobic society.

Gauri’s love for Nargis transcends even death. A resilient, albeit internally tormented, Gauri vows to seek written apology from the hospital administration for belittling her friend’s dead body. Though scorned by the hospital staff and coaxed by her fellow transgenders, particularly Munna, to accede to the hospital administration’s demand to take away Nargis’ body, Gauri, who has shape shifted into a fierce, feral and possessed transwoman, stands her ground and continues with her open-air sit-in even amidst heavy downpour, ultimately inspiring solidarity from fellow transwomen. She faces down the hospital dean (Ananth Mahadevan) and talks him into issuing apology for disrespecting Nargis and thereby succeeds in giving her friend dignity in death.

When it comes to avenging for the disrespect meted out to her friend, Gauri transforms into a Chandika. Gauri partially disrobes herself and threatens to slap rape charges against the dean if he were to refuse issuing an apology. This instance shows that like a true friend Gauri readily sacrifices her modesty and self-respect for winning justice for her friend. Gauri’s helplessness to resurrect Nargis from her death and her grieving and bawling over Nargis’ dead body that lies on the stretcher breaks your heart. It’s not just her love for her departed friend that motivates Gauri to single-handedly fight the prejudiced, unjust and high-handed medical establishment tooth and nail; she fights against all odds to ensure that no one in the transgender community will be a target of discrimination like Nargis in the future (episode 6).

The duo’s yaari and affinity for each other is endearing. While the heteronormative homophobic society had dealt a raw deal to both Gauri and Nargis, they had fortunately found themselves a trustworthy, reliable friend, who would stick with them through life and death. Thus, the emotional benefits we derive from well-meaning friends cannot be underestimated.

Author notes

You may watch Taali Season 1 on JioCinema.
The title of my article is inspired by Shilpa Phadke and Nithila Kanagasabai authored book titled Yaari: An Anthology on Friendship by Women and Queer Folx. Buy it here.


About the Author

Varsha V Shenoy

Varsha V Shenoy (also known as Varsha Shenoy) lives in Mangaluru, Karnataka. She has M.Phil and Doctorate degrees in English literature. The women’s question in colonial India has been the thrust area of read more...

1 Posts | 838 Views

Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!

All Categories