Written by Shanaya D’Sa
The 10th anniversary of Kashish International Queer Film Festival this year is special. The annual film festival, which has grown to become the largest LGBTQ film festival in South East Asia over the years, celebrates the striking down of Section 377, a landmark court ruling in India’s history. Scheduled to take place in the city from June 12-16, Kashish is centred on the theme ‘Over The Rainbow’, focussing on expanding beyond the LGBTQ tag.
“A larger collation between the LGBTQ community and the non-LGBTQ community is needed. The discomfort is gone but there still is curiosity,” said festival director Sridhar Rangayan at a press conference by Kashish held Thursday to talk about the upcoming edition of the festival.
As part of the initiative, Kashish has launched Kashish Forward, a one-day festival that travels to campuses and creates awareness about issues related to the LGBTQ community. This year, they have also tied up with Jio MAMI, which is contributing two films for screening at the festival.
The five-day festival will take place at two of Mumbai’s most popular theatres, Liberty Carnival Cinema and Metro INOX Cinema, screening 160 films from 43 countries. There will also be a scriptwriting workshop with Varun Grover and VR viewings of LGBTQ films in order to actively engage with the audience. The selected films will traverse a range of subjects within the LGBTQ umbrella. Take for example, A Monsoon Date, written by Ghazal Dhaliwal and directed by Tanuja Chandra, it shows how a transwoman tackles rejection in romantic relationships. The opening film, Ellen Smit’s Just Friends, tells the story of two men from different cultures who fall in love and counter objections from their families.
While Kashish has grown exponentially over the decade, Rangayan and his team have made sure it does not lose its primary purpose — being the universal platform of expression for the people of the LGBTQ community, along with their supporters. The aim is to carry forward the conversation on LGBTQ rights. “It is important to ask what happens after the removal of Section 377. We needs rights for stigma to be removed, rights for adoption, same sex marriages, and much more,” said Rangayan.
Among those from the film fraternity attending the press conference were actor Kitu Gidwani, who is also a jury member at this edition, and filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan. They both stressed on how cinema can play a role in creating awareness for the community. “When you watch these films, you realise that the themes of love, loss, grief and desire are universal. The society has to wake up and realise that we are all equal,” said Gidwani. “Kashish creates a culture of cinema, a dialogue between cinema and the rest of the world. LGBTQ is normalised through Bollywood, as cinema is a conduit to society and society adopts what they see,” Ghaywan added.