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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

33 Indian Films To Be Screened At South Asia’s Largest Queer Film Festival In Mumbai This Year

  • IWB Post
  •  May 15, 2018

The annual Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, for the first time in its nine-year history, has chosen home ground, India, as its country in focus. But the bigger news has come in the form of its theme, ‘Together with Pride’, a wonderful attempt to take the festival beyond just the LGBTQ space.

Founded in 2010 by Rangayan, Kashish is billed as the largest queer festival in South Asia. And this year’s theme has something to offer to everyone, said Rangayan in an interview with Scroll. “Each person is different, but is also similar in many ways. Whether you are LGBTQ or heterosexual or fair-skinned, dark skinned, fat or thin, all of us can take pride in which we are. If all of us are able to come together, we could recognize our differences and celebrate that.”

In the first year in 2010, the festival had got around 22 Indian films and screened almost all of them. This year, the submissions were close to 65, out of which they are screening 33, both features and shorts. The festival will be held in Mumbai from May 23-May 27 at Liberty Cinema and Metro Inox, and in all, 140 films from 45 countries will be screened.

Production designer-turned director Vandana Kataria’s Noblemen is scheduled to open the festival. An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, the Kunal Kapoor-starrer is about a drama teacher who tries to tackle bullying in an all-boys boarding school.

Kashish Queer Festival

Kunal Kapoor in Noblemen. Image Source.

Rangayan said he was excited about the festival’s diverse line-up. “People [from different festivals] usually just focus on the mainstream films and do not focus on so many more independent voices that do not get a theatrical release. We are happy to have this fantastic range of films. This was a big break for Kashish.” Amongst the international titles there are – Dome Karukoski’s Tom of Finland from Sweden and Finland, Jakob M Erwa’s Center of My World and Anatol Schuster’s AIR from Germany, Marcelo Caetano’s Body Electric from Brazil and Pablo D’Alo Abba’s Mater from Argentina.

The Indian feature film line-up offers a mix of genres and movies from various parts of the country. Suresh Narayanan’s Malayalam film Irattajeevitham is a tale of friendship between two women, Sainu and Amina. Their relationship takes a turn when Amina undergoes a sex reassignment surgery. It deals with a post-demonetisation phase in a patriarchal society in small town Kerala. Narayanan said, “In Kerala there are many opportunities for public visibility for a man to change into a trans woman, but not for a woman to become a trans man. I wanted to explore such themes with the film.”

IrattaJeevitham Malayalam Movie Official Trailer

IrattaJeevitham Malayalam Movie Amma Films Produced by M.G.Vijay Directed by Suresh Narayanan Cinematographed by Shehnad Jalal

Khejdi from Rajasthan explores similar territory. Written and produced by popular television actor Ashish Sharma and Archana Taide, the movie is based on Kiran Singh’s short story Sanjha about a trans person in Rajasthan. “The film is about a transgender person’s journey. But any individual who wants to fit in with the society can relate to it. It is about fighting the norms, social hypocrisy, and how an individual’s system collapses because of the stance that she takes,” said Ashish.

Manish Mundra on Twitter

What is not us, we fear What we fear, we despise What we despise, we destroy Let’s embark on a journey to discover your identity. #KHEJDI Premieres on 24th may 2018 @ashish30sharma @KashishMIQFF #KhejdiAtKashish #TogetherWithPride #KASHISH2018

Rangayan’s film Evening Shadows, which has been in production for the past seven years, will also be screened at the festival. The crowd-funded film tells the story of a mother who struggles to come to terms with her son’s sexual orientation. But it was recently given a U/A certificate, regarding which Rangayan commented, “In India anything dealing with homosexuality gets an A certificate. But I appealed to them by saying that the point of making the film was to take it to the middle-class households and that can only happen if it is [eventually] released on television.”

Lokesh Kumar’s Tamil film My Son is Gay also explores the bond between a mother and her queer child. Kumar found inspiration for the film at a queer film festival in 2013. “I attended the Bengaluru International Queer Film Festival in 2013. The festival made me aware about the queer community, and I realised that it is often treated with mockery and insensitivity in the Tamil film industry. So I decided to make a film about the community in an effort to make a change in the society.”

Kashish Queer Festival

My Son is Gay. Image Source.

The festival community feels that many filmmakers are apprehensive about labelling their productions as queer films. “We have had some really great LGBTQ-themed films that did want to be screened at Kashish, but they did not want to market it as an LGBTQ film. However when the film doesn’t do that well at the box office, they come back asking us to promote it,” shared Rangayan.

First-time filmmaker Kataria, too, admitted that the “queer film” stamp leads to hesitation among producers. Another director commented, “If your film primarily deals with the subject, why even feel hesitant about being bracketed as a gay film? That is the taboo that we are actually trying to break. Even the people, who make these films, do not believe in it. That is the exact acceptance you are trying to fight for.”

But Rangayan does see light at the end of the tunnel. He feels that attitudes are changing, and the way audience looks at cinema has changed drastically from the earlier years. “They have evolved to look at films which are more nuanced and layered. The number of attendees and the diversity of the audience have increased. There is a continuum of support. A lot of them see it as an initiative to support queer independent cinema instead of a marketing idea.”

H/T Link: Scroll

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