Though the archaic Section 377, an idea impregnated into Indian minds post introduction of the British laws, still exists, it doesn’t deter the LGBT community from expressing themselves. The Kashish film festival is one of the few places where the LGBT community is respected, appreciated and their sexuality celebrated. A 5-day extravaganza featuring 147 films from across 45 countries, in addition to panel discussions, film launches and interactions, the 8th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival began with Half Girlfriend starrer Arjun Kapoor and Nisaba Godrej lighting the inaugural lamp. For me, it was an experience of discovery and empathy; a journey that was too beautiful to be put into words.
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This 8th edition of Kashish saw 51 films competing in eight categories including Best Narrative Feature, Best Performance in a Lead Role, and Best Student Short Film among others.
The man behind this magical event, founder and director Sridhar Rangayan, was present on all days and it was a treat to watch him bring to the forefront issues of LGBT not many are capable of doing. The event took place from May 24th – May 28th at Liberty Cinema and Alliance Francaise, Mumbai. The theme for this year was Diverse, One, which in two words highlights the significance of cinema as a leveller of different sexualities.
Day 1 saw the screening of Signature Move, a film starring Shabana Azmi, which tells the story of love between an American Muslim lesbian lawyer and a Mexican–American woman Alma. A lot of documentaries and short films delighted cinephiles and the LGBT audience on the rest of the festival days. The second day of the festival saw a panel discussion headed by Parmesh Shahani that focused on the recent Vicks ad empathizing with the transgender community. Also, representative of Godrej and IBM reiterated their company’s values by promoting inclusiveness. In fact, Godrej is the first Indian company that makes same-sex partners enjoy spousal benefits just like everyone else.
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Day 3 was made special by Mona Belleau, a renowned Canadian activist. The audiences also enjoyed the famed Vagina Monologues, which introduced a new reader at the festival, famous actor and writer Gazal Dhaliwal, an inspirational figure whose journey from being a guy to a girl is phenomenal. Day 4 saw a thought stimulating panel discussion where among famous personalities, parents discussed their challenges in accepting same-sex relations and facing other issues with respect to LGBT. Day 4 also saw the launch of Sridhar’s upcoming feature film, Evening Shadows.
The final and concluding day of the festival saw amazing short films centered around the lives and challenges of the LGBT community. The animated short film Maacher Jhol by Abhishek Verma, an IIT pass out, which won the Best Indian Narrative Short, saw a packed audience. Performances by Sona Mohapatra, stand up comedian Asif Ali Beg and RJ Rohini Ramanathan met with thunderous applause from the audiences. The day concluded with the screening of Love, directed by Sudhanshu Saria.
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With so much happening throughout the festival, it is understood that a lot of emotions go beyond words. For me, interacting with a crowd different from me in many ways, appreciating their uniqueness and being part of their hidden selves was a lifetime experience. For all those who missed out on this amazing celebration, do not forget to book your tickets next year, because they will be back with the 9th edition in 2018. Till then, celebrate diversity, celebrate life.