A coming out story of a gay man portrayed in the freeness of an animated film, the stark reality of the life of a transman shown as a documentary, a feature film of a budding lesbian romance in the villages of Maharashtra, and another about the fate of a transwoman accepting her reality. Such was the line-up of the two-day (January 21 and 22) theatrical release of these short films across eight cities — Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Nagpur and Chandigarh, where they were showcased on the big screen. These films were among those showcased at Kashish, an LGBTQ+ film festival that was held in June last year, and went on to win many accolades before making it to the big screen across the country.
“For the past decade, Kashish has been screening 160 to 170 films from 40 countries. In the last few years, India has been topping the list with around 30 films. None of these have ever seen a theatrical release or gone on to OTT platforms either (for the world to see). This package of award-winning short films (Monsoon Date, The Fish Curry, Ladli and U for Usha) will help mainstream audiences understand the diverse lives and experiences of the LGBTQ+ community. We want audiences to take back a slice of LGBTQ+ lives feeling that we are as ‘normal’ as everyone else,” says Sridhar Rangayan, founder and festival director. He is one among many who hope LGBTQ+ films get silver screen releases. He adds, “We hope to make this a continuous exercise where we are able to enable LGBTQ+ cinema across the country.” Though obtaining censor board certificates, which is a requirement for every film, is the “main blockage” right now for short films.
A still from the movie Monsoon Date
To quote Konkona Sensharma, who was the lead protagonist of Monsoon Date, “When we exclude LGBTQ+ from society, from our films, we tell an incomplete story of the world.” And her sentiments resound with director Tanuja Chandra, who showcased a film at Kashish for the first time this year. “I wasn’t able to catch these films at the fest, but they are beautiful, sad and heartbreaking at the same time. And they would be because they’re about an oppressed community.” She adds, “I want to make more short films, tell more stories that one doesn’t have the scope to do in commercial cinema.” Speaking about the plight of short films not getting a commercial outlet she says, “People do it out of their own passion for cinema. So, to imagine a future where these get a theatrical release is superb.”
The storyline of her feature film, Monsoon Date, is the tear-jerking tale of Ghazal Dhaliwal and her journey of telling her lover about her past. Speaking about making the film, Tanuja says, “Ghazal is an old friend and an associate. And to have Konkona in the film was amazing not just because she is a great actor but also because she brings great empathy to the role of a LGBTQ+ character. If you can create empathy and compassion in the heart of a viewer, that makes it even more relatable.”