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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

‘Inclusivity’ in focus as LGBTQ film fest Kashish wraps up

As the milestone 10th year of Kashish comes to an end, the festival goers, who were a melange of fashionistas and artistes, weave zesty and zany tales of pride.

art-and-culture Updated: Jun 17, 2019 21:06 IST
Yoshita Rao and Ahana Datta Chaudhury
Yoshita Rao and Ahana Datta Chaudhury
Live dance performance at the closing ceremony of Kashish
Live dance performance at the closing ceremony of Kashish

160 films, 43 countries in five days — a decade of “being home” at Kashish concludes. The 10th year of Kashish Film Festival wrapped up just as colourfully as it began with the opening and closing ceremonies having people from the LGBTQIA+ community walk the red carpet along with several Bollywood actors. “We opened the red carpet to members of the community because they are the celebrities. Kashish is a place where everyone can truly be who they want to be,” says Sridhar Rangayan, Indian film-maker and festival director. Even with storm clouds and cyclone warnings, Kashish was a full house with over 1,000 people that packed the venue on the opening night at the age old Liberty cinema, New Marinelines.

From virtual reality booths that screened movies taking you smack in the middle of the pride parade experience from all around the world, to discussions around hierarchies and taboos within the community — Kashish 2019 saw it all. Actor, film-maker and popular youth icon in the community, Sonal Giani, elaborates, “Strangely, a lot of films have been made where transwomen are portrayed but very few of them are made on transmen. More such narratives need to come out in the open.”

The vibe

For artiste S Arif, Kashish is like “homecoming”, which he also describes as their “very own MET Gala”. “We look forward to the festival, even if it’s just five days. We bunk work to come here because this is our home and we don’t want to miss it for the world,” he asserts. Part of the crowd was also fashion designer and writer, Inderjit Nagi, who says, “Kashish is an annual pilgrimage for us. It gets better every year.”

Young students from colleges flocked to the fest, along with volunteers from Morgan Stanley, who were ushering guests, helping out at stalls or even at the box office. A book reading by the author of Straight to Normal, Sharif D Rangnekar, also saw a large number of youth. His autobiographical book he says, was inspired by his own life. “I assumed [being] ‘straight’ was the only normal. But only later did I realise that there are other variants to that,” Sharif says.

An attendee writes on the movie poster wall of Kashish
An attendee writes on the movie poster wall of Kashish

But the main takeaway from the fest was the multitudinous stories. “Take an interest, and you will get to hear amazing stories. We are a little more colourful and it’s time our stories are told.” Veena Kulkarni, a teacher, film-maker and entrepreneur, says. Adding to this, Mujeer Pasha, who has been a regular at Kashish, expresses how this year, film-makers have concentrated on telling stories and expressing interpersonal bonds. “We are focusing on bonds between straight and queer people, on friendships, heartbreaks and making it inclusive,” he says.

The good debate

Intellectually stimulating topics like raising funds, minimal presence of LGBTQ+ camera-persons in the industry, the stereotypical way in which Bollywood portrays homosexuals, were discussed at the panel on day five. Rohin Raveendran, who had worked on Sacred Games with Vikramaditya Motwane , portrayed imminent Marathi actor Amruta Subhash in his film that focuses on the subtleties of being a lesbian in India.

Kashish, the LGBTQ film festival at the Liberty cinema at Marine lines in Mumbai
Kashish, the LGBTQ film festival at the Liberty cinema at Marine lines in Mumbai ( Aalok Soni/HT Photo )
Decade of change

A part of the core team at Kashish 10 years ago, Pallav Patankar, director of marketing of the fest, says, “The atmosphere is even more joyous this year. Before the reading down of Section 377, we used to see a lot of foreign films on same-sex marriage, adoption, and now these issues seem to be applicable to us as well.”

Along with lessons to be learnt from all over the world, Kashish lets you soak in and adapt these lessons to what is applicable in India. “This year, I can almost feel the energy, with people saying ‘we should be talking more about adoption, same sex marriages and how do we go about it?’,” Pallav says, adding that the festival strived to be “more inclusive” this year.

Sridhar Rangayan, festival and film director at Kashish
Sridhar Rangayan, festival and film director at Kashish ( Aalok Soni/HT Photo )

“Kashish in its 10th year is in a celebratory event as it is the first LGBTQIA+ film festival since,” says Sridhar adding, “The other things that were new this year were our initiatives for film-makers. The QDrishit film grant, which used to be ₹1 lakh has been raised to ₹2 lakh. We also have a tie-up with a Taiwaneese OTT platform, which will be screening 10 best films of 2018’s Kashish. We also have a tie-up with a theatre on demand facility, for releasing winning films of Kashish 2019 in theatres across India. After the awards on Sunday, we are hoping to release the movies by August-September this year.”

10 best films this year

Nagar Kirtan: Directed by Kaushik Ganguly, this 15-minute Bengali feature, focusing on a trans woman who flees her house after being betrayed by her partner.

The Booth: This 15-minute short film produced by Vikramaditya Motwane, speaks of the lives of two women, of different ages, who struggle to find solace in each others’ arms, hiding away from the rest of the world.

U For Usacha: The film is set in rural India, bringing out the message that being gay is not an unban luxury anymore. It’s about an illiterate and single mother named Usha who is attracted to a female teacher at a primary school.

Njan Marykutty: This Malayalam film is the story of Mathukutty, a transexual, who is torn between the constant struggle of getting out of being a man, and finally undergoes a surgery to become a woman.

Mahalachumi: This 12-minute Tamilian comedy film, revolves around a paranoid father, showcasing the mentality that bashes homosexuality.

Just Friends: It is a romantic comedy about two young men, who are attracted to each other through similar tastes in music and sports, while their feelings bond into more than just remaining friends.

Kattumaran: The film is about the tsunami affected lives of middle-aged fisherman and his niece and nephew who are very dear to him. The niece who is in love with a female teacher ostracises them from their community.

Rafiki: Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu;s 83 minutes long narrative feature is about two women, whose families are political rivals but they stick very close to each other, confiding in each other to turn their dreams into a reality.

Boy Erased: It is a 115 minute English narrative feature, telling the story of a Baptist pastor’s son, who is forced to attend a conversion therapy program. Else, he would be permanently shut away from his family.

Call her Ganda: This is an 87 minute documentary feature about a Filipina trans woman, who was killed and the case was taken up for investigation by three women who was witness to a political upheaval.

First Published: Jun 17, 2019 21:04 IST

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