IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

LGBTQ South Asians are celebrating 'Monkey Man' for its representation of India's trans community

Members of the hijra community, often demonized or mocked in media, become warriors against corruption in Dev Patel’s new film.
Dev Patel as "Kid" in "Monkey Man."
Dev Patel as "Kid" in "Monkey Man."Universal Pictures

Fans are raving about Dev Patel’s “Monkey Man” for its thrilling action sequences and poignant revenge storyline, but for LGBTQ South Asians, the film holds a particular significance.

The film features a transgender woman character, as well as India’s diverse third-gender, or “hijra,” community.

On his journey to get revenge on the corrupt guru and police chief who killed his mother, Patel’s character “Kid” is saved by Alpha, a transgender woman and hijra community leader. Other trans characters featured throughout the film eventually become allies to Kid, emerging in colorful saris and masks to fight alongside him during an epic battle scene.

“This is an anthem for the underdog, the voiceless, the marginalized,” Patel said in an interview with Variety. “I really wanted to include the hijra community, the third gender in India. … You look at the old carvings in these temples in India and the freedom, the sexuality, the philosophy, all of it, was so ahead of its time.”

Dev Patel as Kid and Vipin Sharma as Alpha in a scene from "Monkey Man."
Dev Patel as Kid and Vipin Sharma as Alpha in a scene from "Monkey Man."Universal Pictures

Hijras have a long history in South Asia, including playing important roles in Hindu religious ceremonies, but in today’s India they’re often demonized and denied access to work and good housing. Reports on their representation in media have found that they’re usually portrayed as villains, victims or comic relief.

Fans on social media praised the inclusion.

“MONKEY MAN is an incredible action film featuring INDIAN TRANS PEOPLE as a major part of the plot! I can’t stop screaming it from the rooftops! Dev Patel ilysm,” one fan said.

A scene from "Monkey Man."
A scene from "Monkey Man." Universal Pictures

Others said they loved that members of the hijra community were represented as fighters against evil and corruption.

“Just watched ‘Monkey Man’ and loved the representation of the Hijra, India’s third gender people. They were badass!” another viewer said on X.

Indian actor Vipin Sharma, who played Alpha, told Variety he painted his nails and grew out his hair for the role. He described the care Patel put into developing the character.

“I am a male; he saw me as a female character, which was quite amazing actually, that he saw something about me that he thought I will be good to play this role,” he said.