Even before it starts, India’s first mainstream queer film festival may well be courting trouble. ‘Kashish — Mumbai International Queer Film Festival’, which will showcase 110 films from over 25 countries, starts in Mumbai on Wednesday under police security. Actress and equal rights activist Celina Jaitley, an active supporter of ‘Kashish’, spoke to HT City about the festival and security concerns.
“We have carefully chosen the films keeping in mind our moral and cultural values and have received Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s clearance to screen films. Though we are hoping there will not be any fuss, the police has been very co-operative and will provide apt security at the venues,” said Jaitley.
Jaitley’s concerns about security are not unfounded. Talking about the film festival, Bajrang Dal activist Prakash Sharma said, “Kaanoon ne is ashleelta ko sirf anumati di hai, par sarkaar ko iske prachaar prasaar par tatkaal rok lagaani chahiye. Hum zaroorat padne par thos kadam zaroor uthayenge (The law has only allowed this vulgarity, but the government should prevent its promotion. If need be we will take strict action against them).”
However, a surprising show of support comes from Shiv Sena spokesperson Rahul Navrekar. “Such an event is a matter of pride for us.” On a note of caution though, Navrekar is quick to add, “But, if it affects our moral and cultural values, we will surely come into action.”
Controversy apart, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community of India is thrilled. Not only do the selected films showcase LGBT issues, it is also the first time mainstream Mumbai venues like PVR Juhu and Alliance Francaise are part of such a festival. “Events such as this exemplify the emerging acceptance of gay rights since the Delhi High Court ruling in 2008,” said actor Steven Baker. “There have been queer festivals in the past but none matched the scale of this one. It is at par with international film festivals. We hope that it is attended by everyone,” said Mumbai-based queer activist Vikram Doctor.
Jaitley confirms that the festival is reaching out to a larger audience. “The theatres were booked out soon after we opened our online booking,” she said.
— Inputs by Mayank Austen Soofi