The sixth edition of the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival opened on Wednesday May 27, 2015, evening with a dash of glitter, glamour and panache. National award winning filmmakers Sai Paranjpye and Arunaraje Patil, actor and United Nations Equality champion Celina Jaitly, actor Shernaz Patel and veteran theatre actor Dolly Thakore flagged off the South East Asia’s biggest and India’s only mainstream LGBT film Festival. The festival, being held from May 27 to 31st, will feature 180 short and feature filmmakers from 44 different countries. The three venues this year are the iconic art deco Liberty Cinema and Alliance Francaise de Bombay at New Marine Lines and Max Mueller Bhavan at Kala Ghoda.
“Cinema is a reflection of our society, but also of future generations for in its cultural expression we sow the seeds of future change,’’ said Celina Jaitly. “It is amazing how KASHISH has grown over the last six years firmly establishing itself as festival that champions the cause of equal rights,’’ added Celina Jaitly.
“What KASHISH stands for is something close to my heart. And that is – Freedom to Express,’’ said Sai Paranjpye, who lit the ceremonial lamp to declare the film festival open. “At a time when freedom of speech and expression is largely stifled, it is important that a festival like KASHISH stands up and makes a point of being out, open and driving home a message of equality and dignity, for everyone. It doesn’t matter what one’s sexuality is, what one’s
religion, caste, ethnicity, age is, it is important that all of us have the right to being free citizens of this country and have the same rights as everyone, not just in India but in every country. We may all not be born equal, but everyone has a right to be treated equally,’’ added the filmmaker.
KASHISH welcomed festivalgoers and dignitaries with actors Faredoon Bhujwala, Sushant Divgikar and Saattvic in drag, and a pride as shiny as their sequined outfits. The ceremony also included performances by the Mumbai dancer/choreographer Ameya Mehta and group, High Heeled Hotties and Bharatnatyam dancer Jitesh Bangera and troupe. The opening ceremony was followed by the opening night film Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange, which sets the stage for a mature gay romance and the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics.
“It is indeed a proud moment that we are able to bring together yet another edition of KASHISH, sixth year in succession,’’ said Sridhar Rangayan, Festival Director. “Every year hundreds of people all over the world come together to make this festival happen – filmmakers, producers, distributors, sponsors, organizations, numerous individuals – everyone who believe that KASHISH is a powerful vehicle for upholding equality and dignity. It is indeed incredible that KASHISH has become this huge force that coalesces so many people into one iconic event,’’ added Rangayan.
KASHISH 2015 is organized by Solaris Pictures, and co organized by The Humsafar Trust (HST).
“KASHISH has over the last six years managed to become the face of the LGBT community of Mumbai, along with the pride march,’’ said Ashok Row Kavi, chairman and founder of HST, adding, “It is one of the first events organized by the community that has managed to mainstream the issues of LGBT persons.’’
An eminent jury panel comprising filmmakers Anubhav Sinha and Chitra Palekar, national award winning filmmaker Aamir Bashir, columnist Malavika Sangghvi and popular television actor Meghna Malik will judge the winners in the seven film competition categories.
Acclaimed filmmaker Anupam Kher’s Actor Prepares has sponsored cash prizes for the three top competition categories at KASHISH – Rs 30,000 for the Best Narrative Feature Film, Rs 20,000 for the Best Indian Narrative Short film and Rs 20,000 for the Best Performance in a Lead Role. Wadia Movietone has instituted a cash award of Rs 15,000 for the Riyad Wadia Award for the Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker. Pond 5 will sponsor a cash prize of Rs 20,000 for the Best Documentary Feature. The other categories are Best Documentary Short and Best International Narrative Short film.
The festival is supported by MAC, IBM, Project Diva and Pehchan. A portion of the funds required for organizing the festival was crowdfunded. Among the distinguished guests were Karen Thompson, brand manager for MAC Cosmetics, and Nadia Rashid, Health and Development Practice manager for the United Nations Development Programme, Bangkok regional Hub.
“We have a country that is so full of old prejudices – it’s time to get a move on. It is a very steep and uphill task, but the sheer size of the cinema contributes to the growth of this movement, which is long overdue,’’ said Nazir Hoosein, owner of Liberty Cinema.
Australia was chosen as the `Country in Focus’ for this year’s edition of the Festival. “The theme of mateship, of bonding between people of the same gender was a giant part of the golden age of Australian cinema in the 70’s and 80’s, but the filmmakers always shied away from evoking sexuality. I am proud that this year’s entries will be able to portray the diversity of contemporary queer life in Australia,” said Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, Institute for Human Security and Social Change, La Trobe , University, Melbourne.
In association with the festival, Mumbai’s Gallery Beyond will be hosting the exposition: The 377191 Wall: Freedom to Express, Freedom to Choose from May until the end of June 2015. The mixed media showcase will display works from 230 artists, who have come together in their support of freedom, equality and dignity.
Daily Panel Discussions will also be held daily in the Atrium of the Liberty Cinema, on the following topics: Dare to Dream: From an unjust law to a path breaking judgement, The Way Ahead for Co-productions, The Global Gay and Deconstructing the Queer Identity and Dialogue with Emerging Filmmakers.