The annual Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is back with short films, documentaries and films grouped under the theme 7 Shades of Love. The festival covers romantic (and platonic) love, of course, but filial emotions are also a highlight of this vital showcase of queer film culture from India and around the world.
Among the 180 films from 53 countries are expressions of queer identity from India. In Any Other Day, a 12-minute short by Srikant Ananthkrishnan and Vikrant Dhote, a mother comes to the rescue of her gay son, who is being harassed by police officers. Nishant Roy Bombarde’s Daaravtha (The Threshold), which won the National Film Award for Best First Non-Feature in 2016, is about a young boy discovering his sexuality in a small town in Maharashtra.
In Manam, a 13-minute short by Balaji M, two transwomen yearn for motherhood. “You will notice how seamlessly these films blend the voices of the marginalised with the support coming from families,” said the festival’s energetic founder and director, Sridhar Rangayan. “This year, the film festival is bringing narratives and perspectives of families into the picture so that films can reach out not only to the community but also those around them who are affected and can support it.”
Rangayan’s own documentary, Breaking Free, which won the National Film Award for editing in the non-fiction category in 2016, chronicles the human rights violations faced by the LGBT community in India due to Section 377. “I feel the time has come for recognition of good cinema, irrespective of the fact that it touches upon a subject that is social taboo yet,” Rangayan said.
Apart from films from India, the line-up includes documentaries and narrative shorts from Nepal, Pakistan, Spain and France. A stunning 17-minute animated film from France called He Who Has Two Souls depicts a young man’s dilemma with his male and female selves.
The Pakistani short Piece of Naan offers a disturbing look into the world of sex work. The 35-minute documentary from Nepal, Anjali: How Long Can Someone Live In Other’s Skin, is the story of a transgender model in Kathmandu.
The festival has in the past attracted support from the Hindi film world from such celebrities as Juhi Chawla, Manisha Koirala, Rahul Bose, Shyam Benegal and Celina Jaitley. This year, Rangayan has scored a coup. Ian McKellen, the renowned British actor who is in India for a William Shakespeare festival organised by the British Council and the British Film Institute, will attend Kashish as its chief guest. McKellen, a vocal queer rights campaigner, will also inaugurate the festival.
McKellen’s presence at Kashish will vastly boost its visibility and perception among the general public, Rangayan said. “Sir Ian McKellen is not just a star, but an equal rights champion and through his presence, the struggles of the Indian LGBT movement for rights will be more mainstreamed,” Rangayan said.
Not content with the festival appearing only on the Mumbai cultural calendar, Rangayan is taking the festival to colleges across India. “We are running a year-round initiative called Kashish Forward, where we take youth-focussed LGBT films to colleges around India,” Rangayan said. He has also struck up partnerships with international film festivals where Indian LGBT titles are showcased. “We believe in the power of Kashish – that it has the potential to change mindsets and enable attitudinal shifts – but it needs to reach out wider and percolate both to the grassroots and to the higher-up power-changers,” Rangayan said.
Todd Haynes’s Carol (2015) will be the opening film on May 27. Those People (2015) is the closing film on May 29. Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh (2016) will also be shown at the festival. The full schedule is available on the festival’s website.