Bringing the community together

Co festival director Pallav Patankar says Kashish is a LGBT community initiative.

Since its debut in 2010, KASHISH has become an important event in the cultural space of Mumbai. At its core is a group of people who remain committed to keep KASHISH as one of the showcase events of the LGBT community. Pallav Patankar explains that while the LGBT community’s support for the festival remains firm, this year KASHISH is also looking for participation from the mainstream.

It’s only a few days to the festival, how are the preparations going on?
There is quite a buzz around the place, we are all tapping away trying to coordinate things from the office. It is nice to see so many youngsters busy at work doing their things. Yes, there are some real nerve wranglers here as well and we are hoping we tide over things smoothly – budgets  expenses , logistics …and at the end of the day one has to even look pretty for the festival , quite a task!

Have you noticed any change in the delegate registrations this time?
Yes, they are more in numbers. This year we introduced online-registrations and we should touch more than 1200 by the rate at which registrations are coming in . And that’s going to be one helluva thing to manage, both in terms of our logistics as well as our crowd management. We are also seeing that using social media such as Facebook and Twitter is allowing us to break the hegemony of targeted listservs or groups, which are meant for the LGBT community alone. We have managed getting the film festival message viral and the invitation is going out not only to the queer community but to the mainstream straight community as well. This has increased delegate registrations.

How is the crowd funding initiative taken off?
Crowd funding was an experiment that we embarked on to ensure that the film festival is free and it has exceeded our expectations. I am surprised how individuals have really felt about sustaining community initiatives like Kashish and have contributed. It is not the amount but the thought that matters. And we are happy at the way it has taken off. Again, Facebook and Twitter have helped us disseminate our message far and wide.
How is the LGBT community involvement in the festival?
The core organizing team, the volunteers, most of the festival team preview team come from the LGBT community. Kashish at the end of the day is a community initiative.

Your theme this year is `For Everyone”? How are you managing to ensure that?
Like I have mentioned already, we have reached out to an audience that is not necessarily queer. As per our records and surveys, last year we had a 30 %participation of people who identified as straight. We are sparing no efforts to reach out to parent , families, students , siblings, bosses, colleagues of the LGBT community  that they should come and attend the film festival . The only hitch is that they should be above 18, but that’s the law.

You have a panel discussion on HIV as well as special short films Red Ribbon package. Tell us something about it?
We are talking about spreading prevention messages in the media, and the kind of BCC (Behaviour Change and Communication) methods that can be used by audio visual media to make that difference. Safe sex messages over a period of time can get repetitive and thus boring. We are looking at strategies to improve that communication. The Red Ribbon Package deals with issues of HIV and AIDS and in a way helps with the above objective.

Do you anticipate any trouble from right-wing/ fundamentalist groups who are opposed to the decriminalisation of Section 377 in the Supreme Court?

Till now we have not heard from them and if we do hear from them we would be more than happy to invite a few of their nominated delegates to attend the festival. That our lives are just beyond a sexual act needs to be understood. We are people with emotions, values and aspirations, we have our talents our shortcomings and our problems. The Film festival is meant to portray these life moments for greater understanding of alternate sexuality. Besides, Kashish has clearance of the Inion Information and Broadcasting Ministry and we have kept the local police stations at both venues informed about the festival in order to prevent any untoward incident.

Pallav Patankar is an executive board member of The Humsafar Trust functioning as The Director-HIV Programs. He also serves as a board member of APCOM-Asia Pacific Coalition of MSM and the Project Director on Project
Pehchan. A management professional by training ,and an international business professional in his previous avatar , Pallav Patankar has settled back in India to be actively involved with the queer community at local and
national levels.