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Queen queer

Celina Jaitly, after fronting the fight for gay rights last year, is now pioneering Kashish-Mumbai International Queer Film Fest.

entertainment Updated: Apr 20, 2010 13:34 IST
Sharin Bhatti
Sharin Bhatti
Hindustan Times

CelinaCelina Jaitely gets candid about Kashmiri Film Festival, Gay Rights...

You are supporting Kashish as its official ambassador. Was it natural for you to be associated with the queer film fest?
I’ve always been supportive of the upheaval caused by the national gay movement. I feel for it strongly, so when I heard about the festival and was contacted by Humsafar, I was more than happy help. I think it’s very liberating now that the community has its own film fest and can engage their expression in the arts and voice them creatively. I think it was needed, an expression in cinema. Now we can look at this as an integration of a community that was formerly considered non-existent.

You seem to have become a champion of the gay cause, since the decriminalisation last year. What’s your driving force?
I have always wanted to support the liberation movement. I have had a lot of personal associations with a lot of queer people. And watching them go through life without a voice, has just moved me a lot. Caging someone’s existence, hiding who they are, isn’t right and I’ve always felt the need to do something.

Some of your close gay friends suffered greatly, was that the reason behind your association?
Well about two years ago, I lost two of my friends from the gay community. One actually succumbed to his personal injuries caused by the way people treated him for being gay. He was a professor at a university and he didn’t commit suicide. People killed him. He wasn’t accepted and was constantly humiliated. He fell into depression and also became bulimic. His parents didn’t accept him either.

Bulimia ultimately took his life. I saw him deteriorate over the years. It broke my heart to see him go through that and I knew I had to do something for people who feel like they have no right to an identity just because they are different.

And the other friend…
That was my make-up artiste in Kolkata, Prabhat Kumar Dey. He was transgender and he was very close to me, especially during my Miss India days. He was like a mother figure to me. He was accepted in the glamour industry, but shunned by many. He died in a tragic car crash.

In a year, I had lost two of my closest friends, who were constantly ostracised by society. That is why I didn’t hesitate to lend my support when I got the chance to voice their unanimous grudge and fight for identity. It is a personal feeling that I translated into a fight for them.

Apparently you faced a lot of criticism for taking this stand…
Oh absolutely! I have a lot of Fatwas against me. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of my involvement with this cause as well. Lot of people told me that I was an actress and someone famous shouldn’t associate themselves with controversial subjects. Many told me to stick to charity. But that’s the point. This is my cause.

I believe completely in Human rights and equality.Something as simple as day-to-day existence is hampered for a section of society. These people are denied basic rights because people refuse to accept their existence and the people they are. Something needed to be done, so I went all out to use my fame to take their fight forward.

After the landmark ruling decriminalizing homosexuality, as previously existed in Article 377, do you feel the gay community has actually been impacted?
Well honestly speaking, it is still a work in progress. I know a lot of people who are still suffering the brunt of being gay. India is still not ready to accept the queer community. Just because they choose to live their lives differently, does not make them unacceptable. Everyone is only masking their intolerance.

I seriously think we need to start changing mindsets by talking about it and learning to welcome them into our lives as regular human beings. It’s very difficult being alone and an outcast. It’s inhuman. And why should they suffer for being themselves? I still think India has a long way to go before they learn to accept all sexual orientations. Which is why forums like the entertainment industry are perfect icebreakers.

Speaking of the fest, will you be attending and watching any of the movies?
Unfortunately, because of my shooting schedule I won’t be able to see all the movies. But I will be watching this Swedish film called Patrick by Ella Lemhagen. It’s a classic case of mixed identities. I really think everyone who wants to understand the gay community must watch this film. It’s about a gay couple that accidentally adopts a 15-year-old child. He loathes gays initially, but learns to love them in the end.

India’s first openly gay flick to close festival
Anil Sharma’s brother, Kapil Sharma’s Tryst with the queer is finally ready to release. The movie will be screened at the closing ceremony of Kashish – Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. Titled Dunno Y ... Na Jaane Kyun, the movie stars Aryan Vaid, Maradona Rebello, Zeenat Aman and Helen. Touted as India’s Brokeback Mountain, it’s the second endeavour after Dostana where Bollywood is tackling homosexuality.

The movie was made last year, after the Delhi High Court overturned a law criminalising homosexuality. Although the film will be released sometime in May, Sharma has chosen to screen the movie for free at the intimate closing ceremony. “I think it completely suits the cause and since this is first film festival of its kind in India, I am supremely confident of the unbiased response to the movie.” Waiting and watching.

An overview
Activists and curators Sridhar Rangayan from Bombay Dost and Vivek Anand, CEO Humsafar Trust, an NGO that promotes gay rights thought it was time that the newly liberated nation had its first proper queer film festival. Kashish- Mumbai International Queer Film Festival will be debuting on April 22 and the two aim to make this an annual affair.

Anand says it’s an endeavour to engage cinema in gay activism. “The landmark judgement of Delhi High Court on July 2, 2009 decriminalising homosexual acts among consenting adults, now needs to be followed up by efforts like Kashish Queer Film Festival that will create awareness and act as a platform to sensitise mainstream society on queer issues and increase levels of acceptance.”Which is why they chose to rope in commercial screening theatres to engage a larger viewership.

Best of the Fest
Albania (2002): 7 min short film by Lior Shamriz from Israel.
A snappy short story about three girls – a filmmaker, her ex and her new girlfriend - and how their altered relationships create new dynamics. It is funny and bitchy without being nasty!
Screening at PVR, Juhu on Friday, April 23 at 11.45am

Boy Meets Boy (2008) :13 min short film by KimJhoGwang Soo from Korea
On a warm spring day Min-soo, meets tall and broad-shouldered Seok during a bus ride.Min-soo keeps looking at the tough boy whose sharp eyes are hidden under his baseball cap. Min-soo’s heart starts beating – with fright and love when he thinks of what might happen when they get off the bus.
Screening at PVR, Juhu on Saturday, April 24 at 6.30 pm

Buttery Top (2009): 4 min short by Catherine Crouch from USA
A short-sweet ‘first date’ comedy between a butch dyke and a fem blonde. Told with great humour and gentle gestures, this heartwarming short shows what everyone must have felt on a first date – be it with a man or a woman.
Screening at PVR, Juhu on Friday, April 23 at 6.30 pm

The Casuarina Cove (2008): 19 min by Tanjong Rhu from Singapore
A former military officer seeks closure by making a documentary film about a man whom he had furtively encountered in Tanjong Rhu many years ago. Tanjong Rhu is a secluded beach on the east coast of Singapore, and a popular cruising ground for gay men. In an entrapment exercise in 1993, 12 men were arrested there and sentenced to imprisonment and caning. This is a fictionalized account of what has happened since then to one of these men.
Screening at PVR, Juhu on Saturday, April 24 at 11.45am

Engayging Lives (2010): 26 min by Shruti Rao from India
A documentary film exploring the lives of four gay men in urban Mumbai. The story follows the lives of a young gay activist, a haute couture designer, a music composer and an NGO employee - in their spaces along with their family and the loved ones.
Screening at PVR, Juhu on Thursday, April 22 at 4.15 pm

Frequent Traveler (2007): 8 min short by Patricia Bateira from Portugal
A humorous take on desire - at the security system of an airport. This frequent traveller is a man who seeks to be touched. Today he crosses different frontiers.
Screening at Alliance Française on Friday, April 23 at 11.45am

Patrick, Age 1.5 (2010): by Ella Lemhagen from Sweden
Goran and Sven are the perfect gay couple; they have a beautiful house in the suburbs, a solid relationship, a home full of love and warmth. Newly approvedfor adoption, they believe that baby Patrik, age 1.5, is on his way. One tiny decimal mistake later, they find themselves saddled with a 15-year-old homophobe, who may have a criminal past.
Screening at Vie Lounge as part of the Opening Ceremony on April 21.

Toto Forever (2010): 14 min short by Roberto Fernandez Canuto from USA
An impossible love story between a young postman Toto, who dreams of a new life, and a gangster, who is in deep trouble with a mafia group. Toto will never lose ‘hope’, despite the traumatic end of the affair. The screening at Kashish is the World Premiere of this wonderful short film.
Screening at PVR, Juhu on Thursday, April 22 at 11.45 am.