Am I Male or Female ?

I am both. Male and female. Without my female self I am neither creative nor spiritual. Without my male self I am neither enterprising, nor active. I am not both man and woman. I am a man. But finally,I am now both male and female.


And finding the balance was tough. To balance the nurturing nature with the aggressive go-getting nature. Men too often ignore their female selves. Part of that, I am absolutely sure, is our educational system and social conditioning.
As a young Punjabi male I grew up ‘knowing’ that I must be the Decision Maker. The Provider. The Career Junkie. The social conditioning and peer pressure around me made me made me carry the burden of the sexual predator. The seducer. This did not end in India. As I went to London as a young student, the same attitudes prevailed.
I was never comfortable. I found bieng completely male a huge burden to carry. So I left bieng the Career Junkie, the accountant, the management consultant on his way to the top of the corporate ladder. I now realize I went in search for my female self. That was the first step in my quest to find myslef. A journey that continues to this date.
It took a long time. It was not till I made a film called “The Bandit Queen’, that I truly discovered my female self. For those that have seen it, will know what I mean immedietly. This was a film about a low caste woman that was repeatedly raped, and finally turned into a bandit that went back to wreak revenge.
Someone once asked me what I learnt from that film. I said I am now willing to stand in the middle of the street and shout aloud “I am weak”. And you have no idea how inherrently strong that makes me. The contradiction. Strength through an acceptance of weakness.
Like suddenly turning into Water, when all your life you were stone.
To watch myself moving now seamlessly from male to female and back is such a fascinating observation. From bieng the ‘general’ on the sets when I am filming, back to being a gentle soul reduced to fits of crying. It’s amazing. From almost tyranical decisiveness, obstinate and egoistic. To almost a total absence of authority, of indecisiveness where the moment is allowed to completely dominate me. I find the process fascinating and provocative. And creative.
So often I was asked whether Bandit Queen was a ‘feminist’ film and I always said no, it was a ”humanist’ film. It embraced both the feminist and masculinist in the same character. As in all characters. Even in Elizabeth.
I am not saying that women are weak, while men inherrently agressive and strong in nature. I am saying that all women and men exhibit male and female natures. As they must do to find harmony.
In one of my unsuccesful films (Four Feathers) I did try and explore the nature of true courage. True courage was not the ability to die. It was the ability to live. True courage is more female than male, for true courage is Wisdom. And Wisdom is the strength to give and nurture, not to take and destroy.
Shekhar

28 Responses to “Am I Male or Female ?”

  1. kapil joshi says:

    dear shekhar,
    the opening lines,”……do something completely impusive” echoes the same vulnerability that u have spoken about in the lines above,”… i am weak”It is only when one has thrown oneself open to impulses does one realize the spirits vulnerability and its strength of becoming the impulse.
    This reminds me of J.krishnamurti’s words,”..the strength of the rose lies in its vulnerability..”
    Also would like to quote sri aurobindo,
    “I become what I see in myself.
    All that thought suggests to me,I can do;
    all that thought reveals in me,I can become. This should be man’s unshakable faith in himself,because God dwells in him.”
    To be the strongest self or maybe the true self one has to be constantly aware of this vulnerability to thought…probably this is the shuynyata of mind,self ,that has been long spoken of,to see the beauty of life,the oneness of life.(?)

  2. icyvolcano_5 says:

    Absolutely in agreement with these views. I have read in my Psychology books that how each man has a female side while each woman has a masculine side and it is a balance of contradictions that make us truely human and understand our opposite sex.Because of that grain of masculinity in me I am better able to understand males surrounding me & vice versa! But our social conditioning is such that esp Indian males feel embarassed to nurture or reveal softer side and as a result turn out tyrants..
    I am a whole coz of harmony btw my two contradictions.
    i appreciate ur thoughts Shekhar..
    cheers
    Nidhi

  3. Humphrey V. Bennett says:

    Namaste Shekhar,
    Thus, the impulse in which I now take in order to free my spirit, eradicate self doubt and having control of the mind, is by informing you that shortly you will recieve a screenplay from the above mentioned, H.V. Bennett. If it is fatefully willed, I think you might be the only one to aid me in giving birth to my brainchild. It is a film that will take guts and balls to tackle. I will not disclose the title of the screenplay at this given time, but once you recieve it in your hands, you’ll know it. It concerns the “Mind”. Once you recieve and is able to read this epic, the rest of the story will reveal itself. It is an epic for our times…, ek prem kehani, (more or less) I am not of Indian origin by the way. As, I said, once you do recieve the screenplay, the rest of the story will reveal itself.
    Kind regards,
    H.V. Bennett

  4. Hi Shekhar,
    Being a writer ,I have also experienced these fluctuations between the male and female sensitivities within oneself,which show in most of my stories.The protagonist is either a male or a female, depending on what aspect of sexuality I strongly feel about, at the point of penning down my thoughts.
    Here again I feel the company or the surroundings you are enclosed within also adds on to your feminine /masculine insticts,like for eg when I was a kid I had only girls for company,within and outside the family and so, my earlier stories had to do more with girls and their desires and likings and so on but now after I’ve had two sons going crazy over football and formula one ,I’ve begun to turn more and more boyish in my approach.
    This dual personality exists in all species of Nature-that’s what I got to read recently and think it’s true.But the advantage with humans is that we are able to identify this shift from male to female, child to man, young to old.Especially, in a creative person, this constant oscillation from within portrays itself vividly,in every aspect of his work , thus allowing the viewer to read him in so many ways.

  5. PRASHANT SATSANGI says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    I believe in what you believe. Truly important aspect is let us ask ourselves what HE is a male or a female, the answer will be both.
    Both, b’cos he shows us the way, cares about us, ignores our misdeeds, like a mother. And when He wants us to come back to the right path He punishes us to bring us to the right track like a Father.
    Now, concluding that since we believe that we are all HIS creations, and that He resides within each of us, then we ideally should be a mix of the properties of a male and a female. An ideal person more close to GOD.

  6. Coral Plumtree says:

    hmmm I just watched Four Feathers on tv here in London and went straight away to Google to read up on comments about it. I don’t know why there are so many reviews saying it was unsuccessful – I was deeply impressed by your directorial control over the medium – and the control over the production inspite of the enormity of scale … I felt it was a great success. I’m also not sure that the critics weren’t being too Anglo-sensitive … I think you balanced the tension of each character and the circumstance … (i’m not totally sure about historical accuracy – but then again films aren’t historical records …) … so anyway, I felt that you should count Four Feathers as one of your successful films as I’m sure in the future ppl will revisit and rediscover its beauty.

  7. Amber says:

    Shekhar;
    I’m not egactly sure I know what you mean by found your woman side? I read your article twice and still I am confused… You say that you grew up pretty much being forced to make all the decisions.. Well that was not anyones fault in reality.. Dion’t get me wrong, I know that I live in the United States, and I don’t know much about where you come from, but I do know that everyone has a choice in how they live their life… Maybe if you would have told the people around you that you didn’t feel that men should have to make all the decissions then maybe they would have thought about it and they might have realized that you were correct.. Well that is all for now..
    Thank you for your time; Amber

  8. Kalpesh Patel says:

    Iam an aspiring filmmaker and recently made a hindi crime-comedy feature in mumbai and am looking for help to digitally distribute it in India. Can you help me with some leads, contacts or any info. Iam really in a fix as Iam a maker but very much a moron when it comes to reach the audience. If you are in mumbai then I can show u the film and u can see its commercial potential. The film is Titiled “Faltu Utpatang Chatpati Kahani”. Its a film made on a hair-of-a-shoestring budget made on progressive scan DV with the 24fps movement.
    Can you help me reach its audience. The film production is complete.
    You can know more of me if u type “Kalpesh CI Patel and Cinematographer” on the google search.
    Thanks for your time… kind regards,
    Kalpesh…

  9. A.G. says:

    i think half the problem with society is classifying things as masculine and feminine, like if we cant define it, its problematic… you should read Michel Foucault, amongst other things, he talks of different shades of a person’s sexuality, kind of like varying shades of gray but never a perfect black or white, its interesting, maybe youll like it.

  10. Pankaj says:

    that leads to the question—is God male or female…and if u think a little deep u ll find that its all bout the struggle between two schools of thought—the good and the evil. And feminine is supposed to be the good here, obviously. But evil isnt that bad either. Its all in the madness for good that we forget the role and importance of evil. And hence the question—am I male or female.

  11. paromita says:

    we are all man and woman…and my strengh comes from my feminine vurnerability that becomes power personified in the male aura.

  12. Hari Seedhar says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    I share and appreciate your viewpoint.
    an interesting observation, all the (men) sufi poets wrote poetry expressing their love and quest for God while becoming their female selfs. Truly that it is our female part that allows us to love, create, give and forgive. It would be an even madder world if it wasn’t for the feminish part in us, whether we men like to admit it or not. Like you said it is the thousands of years of social conditioning that has made machoism as the highly sought after thing. I have high hopes from the sleeping/hidden feminish sensibilities in modern day tyrants (in power) to come alive and help make this world a better place.
    oh btw, I am a fan of yours.
    Hope to be able to work with you one day.
    Hari

  13. Toni D. says:

    I agree we all have a “male” and a “female” self – the balance of Shiva-Shakti – the single, primal power.
    But which part is the man and which part the woman – that is not altogether clear. Shiva – the male half – symbolizes perfect harmony, while Shakti – the female half symbolizes strength and power.
    Does classifying characteristics as male or female really make sense other than to put a sociological boundary around two pieces that are (and should be) one?
    (just a comment from an astrophysicist and closet philosopher)…..

  14. chris says:

    hi i am chris i am male but i feel as that i am female i have felt like this since i was about seven years old i am now 42 i am a single dad with a 11year old son that lives with me he dose;nt know how i feel it is so hard for me i love evrything girly i like to wear everything girly to and i want my own breast more than anything i love my son so much and dont want to hurt him with the way that i feel so please what can i do about the way i feel thanks for your time chris xx

  15. Kirti Kumar Pandya says:

    Every man has a woman within him , and every woman has a man within her. Acharya Atre said that decades ago. Now I understand it more clearly.
    K.P.

  16. Shiva/Shakti indeed.
    I found this site after seeing “Elizabeth The Golden Age” at the cinema, and I absolutely had to know what soul it was who directed this shatteringly beautiful piece of art. I saw reflections of the Goddesses Kali and Durga (my ishta devatas)in so many of the scenes of Elizabeth’s power.The artistic direction made the film not only a beautiful work of art, but a powerful and poetic portrait, evocative of the works of Rumi in it’s portrayal of the deepest aspects of the human spirit. I must say I am not at all surprised that your poetry is just as beautiful and poignant as your direction.
    When we left the theater, my friend and I were overwhelmed by beauty. Some of those scenes had me at the edge of tears because of the sheer majestic beauty of each individual frame. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen such a poetically beautiful film, and I look forward to seeing your other works.
    When I left the theater, I truly felt like I had just spent two hours in the presence of my guru. That a film can do THAT is absolutely incredible. You have an incredible eye for divine beauty,, and for certain must be one beautiful soul.
    Thank you for not only being capable of manifesting such large amounts of sheer beauty, but for sharing it with the rest of the world as well.
    Namaste,
    Kalliope

  17. arunima says:

    excellent words and beautiful thoughts. kudos shekhar…i am glad i bumped into your blog and will be a regular visitor now.
    I guess for a woman its a great challenge to discover the male side in her and also hone it. As a woman who lives in India, I too have oft found the roles and behavioral patterns allotted to woman and man quite meaningless.
    It gives me great pleasure as well as reassurance after reading your post. I think I am on the right path and it is alright to be the all in control manager as well as the woman whose gentle heart makes her cry inconsolably. These various sides often leave others baffled…but I guess that is secondary.

  18. sai says:

    Shekhar.. stunning write-up! i am able to totally appreciate what you have written, as i do oscillate between the strong and the ‘weak’ at an ever increasingly frequent rate, though i refuse to use the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ in this context.
    I have more often than not watched the ‘aggressive’ sai take charge and ensure his career moves in the right path. The ‘aggressive’ sai is uncompromising, emotionless and fierce. He knows exactly what he wants and has a ‘Take-It’ approach rather than a ‘Work-for-it’ approach.
    But, at the same time, i have watched the ‘weak’ sai crying for something as seemingly-insignificant as a beggar on the street. The ‘weak’ sai is indecisive, emotional and submissive.
    and, strangely though, when i am ‘weak’ is when i feel the strongest. Strong, not as a world-conquerer, but as someone who can feel!
    Given a choice, ill remain ‘weak’ till my final breath.
    adios,
    sai

  19. Mohd Shoeb says:

    i have a story and i want to sell it, my story is just like a story idea, i post you this because you are an indian and i also indian. i have stories more than one but not in written only one in written and i want that you make a film based on my story because my story is very good and i guaranteed that you’ll like it. please give me reply of this message.
    THANK YOU

  20. vivek says:

    hi shekar h r u?

  21. koizen says:

    When you go in search of your feminine self…
    are you searching outside? or your own mind of the picture that you have had all these years?

  22. sriparna says:

    hi shekar,
    to begin wth…frm the time I can remember…i remember telling my mom tht u’r the one tht I want to marry….I laugh abt it today…bt I think tht’s the beauty of childhood.
    now abt the post…i’ve heard too much abt the male and the female charecteristics…bt i believe it not so easy to charecterize any of the genders considering

  23. sriparna says:

    hi shekar,
    to begin wth…frm the time I can remember…i remember telling my mom tht u’r the one tht I want to marry….I laugh abt it today…bt I think tht’s the beauty of childhood.
    Now abt the post…i’ve heard too much abt the male and the female charecteristics…bt i believe it not so easy to charecterize any of the genders considering the way the world has always defined our roles…and hence we always considered the male to be the stronger one and the female being the nurturer….i’m saying this becoz u mentioned that u’r getting in touch wth ur female side…bt how do u really decide which is the male and the female quality?…just becoz the females were always forced to be the nurturer….so tht becomes her quality?wht if the world wud have been different…and both the genders wud be treated the same way….wud u still say that u cud then easily define or should i say distinguish between the male and the female charecteristics?

  24. Sk says:

    Hi Shekar,
    I have always been a great fan of your movies. I have always wanted to interact with you and finally I got this site. I am so excited you can read my messages.
    I am just one amongst the crowd of your fans.The only difference here is that I am gay though there may be a lot of others too. So the topic here that you believe that you are both a man and a women. Psychologically I feel everyone has traits of the opposite sex which is eventually exposed at some point of time. But in my case its diferent.Being a 24 yrs man I feel more inclined to be a women inside to get attention of the opposite sex. Though I don’t show any female mannerisms whatsoever but inside I can’t deny my liking for the same sex.
    I know people have discussed this n times but its very complicated and delicate if you see it through the eyes of gay. Its disturbing and depressing sometimes to not able to be open about this in the soceity.
    Talking about your movies I just love your masterpiece ‘MASOOM’.I remember I saw it when I was quite a young boy and cried.
    Keep making movies and All the best for you life.
    Sk,
    chennai, India

  25. Smita says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    I have always been fan of you,not your films, not your looks, but the complete you. The way you carry yourself.And reading this made me I realize why I liked you so much all this while. Keep it going.
    Regards,
    Smita.

  26. priyanka says:

    i love u shekhar..

  27. A says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    Well this is the first time I have read your website. It reveals an artiste in turbulance, which is usually the case,because without chaos there cant be creation. Thats the reason why you are creating stuff which depict the thoughts going on in your mind. Ranging from Masoom to Elizabeth – a story of innocence to the story of power and something beyond power.
    Coming to the male and the female concept – well it has always been there the Ying and the Yang or the Shiv and the Shakti – the male within the female and the female within the male, the light within the dark and the dark within the light, the white within the colours and the colour within the white. It is how one feels it, how one takes it.
    Look at Da vinci or Michael angelo’s creation – WOW!!
    Cheers! Hope to see great creation from you!
    Thoughts from an Academic!

  28. harishita&hridya(twins) says:

    we have hearts for you.
    are you in india right now?

    we find you sensitive, intelligent and we like your work.
    specially movies like masoom, bandit queen and elizabeth.

    we are looking forward for your upcoming movie paani.

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