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The Square Circle Review

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An out of work transvestite dancer is forced to reconsider the role of women when he meets a vulnerable women who suffers at the hands of a violent rapist. He befriends her and is her companion on the journey back to her village.

★★★★★

Traditionally, as it was deemed improper for women to perform in public, the female roles in Indian films, dance or theatre shows were played by men. Some of these "transvestites" would carry on applying the make-up and wearing jewellery even after the curtain had fallen simply because they felt comfortable with their feminine guise, and so begins the story of one such dancer (Pandey). But the climate is rapidly changing, and before he knows where he is, the nameless man is replaced by a woman and he finds himself out of a job.

Wandering the sprawling spaces of rural India, the transvestite meets a lost woman (Kulkarni) who is on the brink of marriage. Initially he dismisses her vulnerability as naivety, but when she is brutally raped he becomes her companion on her journey back to her village.

With the benefit of decent production values, the film does offer some argument about sexual identity, arranged marriages and a woman's place in a society that does not always encourage equality. The distressing rape scenes are so stylised they leave a bad taste but overall there isn't too much to make it farcical. However, Pandey unconsciously raises a few chuckles during his moments as a singing, dancing "woman", his preposterously cheesy grin and fluttering eyelashes making it impossible to take him at all seriously. Only when more of an insight is given into his character do the smirks subside.

Those with a limited knowledge of Indian films will find it hard to make comparisons between The Square Circle and the country's more traditional fare. But this is a welcome and controversial diversion from the hundreds of popular Bollywood movies released each year.

A welcome change from the usual Bollywood fare.

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