Noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal on Friday announced Kashish 2012 - the third edition of India's biggest queer film festival that focuses on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender films.
"It is marvellous to see how Kashish has grown over the last three years but more important is its mainstream acceptance. Today Kashish has become an important event in the mainstream cultural space in Mumbai," said Benegal, who is the Festival patron and has been associated with Kashish for the last three years. "LGBT persons are still looked on as different and in many societies as criminals. Movies are a great way of communication and breaking these stereotypes," said Benegal at a press conference. Kashish 2012’s trailer was also unveiled at the press conference.
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival this year will be held between May 23-27, 2012 at two venues - Cinemax Versova in Andheri West and Alliance Francaise at New Marine Lines. The festival will feature 120 films from 30 countries.
Sarita Joshi, the beloved Baa from the popular television serial Baa, Bahu aur Baby and a well-known stage, television and film actress said this was her first time on the stage of Kashish and she was very happy to be associated with the event. "As an artist, I am here to extend my encouragement and love. At first people were scared even to address members of the LGBT community but now at least they have a name, `Gay’. There is immense lack of awareness and misconceptions in our society about LGBT persons and Kashish is a great medium to address those," said Sarita Joshi, who stars in Bollywood Beats, which will be screened at the festival.
The jury for the festival was announced and comprises actors/ directors Renuka Sahane and Parvin Dabas, theatre actor Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, television actress Mona Ambegaonkar, and film critic/ author Mayank Shekhar.
Renuka Sahane said that she was extremely proud to be a part of Kashish. "I have known a lot of people who hold innumerable fears, suspicions and questions about sexual minorities. All these become the roots of aggression. Art can be used as the means to address the root of this problem. I am sure the emotional, thought-provoking and entertaining films at Kashish will touch upon important aspects of lives of LGBT persons and enrich each one who watches it," said Renuka Shahane, remembered as a TV host of Surabhi and Close up Antakshari and her role in the blockbuster film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.
Parvin Dabas who made his debut in Monsoon Weddings and is also one of the jury members drew a parallel between cinema and sexuality. "Cinema and sexuality are, both, about fighting for your freedom of expression," said Parvin Dabas. He spoke about movie World Unseen, which had screened at Kashish last year. "We need to open people’s mind ‘so that they can see people as people’, apart from their sexuality," said Parvin Dabas.
Mona Ambegaonkar with her exuberant and impregnable voice recited a few lines from the play "Ek Madhav Baug" which deals with a mother coming to terms with her son’s sexuality. "Each one of us is a minority as an individual. Kashish is a buland awaz (strong voice) which dares to ask questions," said Mona Ambegaonkar.
Mayank Shekhar, noted film critic, confessed that when he was asked to watch so many movies of the same genre as a jury member he had feared monotony, boredom and predictability to set in. ``To my surprise, I realized that the theme was irrelevant. Each film was different. They are movies with actual emotions, romance and an enticing storyline. If you replaced the two men with a man and a woman, you wouldn’t even know it’s a queer film,’’ said Mayank Shekhar. According to Mayank, art abets normalisation of our perceptions, makes things seem acceptable. "Cinema is an optimal manner of dealing with issues concerning societal acceptance of sexual minorities," said Mayank.
Festival director Sridhar Rangayan said that in its third year Kashish had grown bigger much beyond expectations. "Kashish is an attempt at bringing queer cinema from around the world to Indian audiences, showcasing a genre of movies which generally is inaccessible to the mainstream audience. It also is a platform for Indian filmmakers who make films on queer themes to reach out to a larger audience," said Rangayan. This year the festival received 300 entries from around the world out of which 120 films from 30 countries have been short-listed.
Around 25 % of the films that will be screened are from India, including four regional feature films.
Pallav Patankar, the co-festival director said that Kashish which had its theme of `For Everyone’ this year will screen films not only meant for the LGBT community, but also for their families and friends. He added that over the last three years, Kashish had also started attracting corporate support. ``In our first year over 90 per cent of the funding was from UN agencies. This year 90 per cent of the funds have come from corporate sponsors, and 10 per cent from UN agencies,’’ said Patankar.
Vivek Anand, CEO of Humsafar Trust, which is one of the organisers of the festival along with Solaris Pictures and Bombay Dost, said that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had given their approval for the festival this year too – the only queer film festival in India to get such permission. ``The film festival is a voice of the LGBT community we are indebted to the system to have allowed us to take it to the masses,’’ said Anand.
The festival will open today May 23, 2012 with the Oscar-winning film Beginners – Christopher Plummer won the 2012 Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actor, besides winning the Golden Globes and Bafta awards. Over the period of next four days, Kashish will showcase films on issues and rights related to the LGBT community and their families. Apart from film screenings, the festival will also feature panel discussions with filmmakers, interaction with celebrities and much more.
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is the first and only gay & lesbian film festival in India to be held in a mainstream theatre and the only queer festival to receive clearance from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The festival is organized by Solaris Pictures and Bombay Dost in association with The Humsafar Trust.
Key Highlights for this year will be:
- India Focus – Regional Films: Four queer feature films from India in four regional languages - Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil/Kannada and Hindi.
- Country Focus – France: A special package of two feature length and six short films showcasing the best of contemporary French queer cinema.
- Filmmaker in Focus – Rob Williams: US filmmaker Rob Williams, who has made popular gay romantic comedies and dramas is traveling to India to present his films at Kashish.
- Special package of sensitive, dramatic and touching features and shorts on HIV/AIDS is introduced under ‘Red Ribbon Films’ package.
- Short film packages like Rainbow Warriors (about queer people who have made a difference), Indian Masala Mix (exciting shorts by young Indian filmmakers) and UnFair Games about homophobia in sports.
- Q-Toons – A special package of gay animation films.
- Panel discussions, book readings, interactions with filmmakers and even an Art Corner.
- The ``competition section’’ will showcase films which will be judged by an eminent panel of Jury members.
- The Best Indian queer short film at Kashish gets to compete for the Iris Prize in UK which carries a cash prize of 25,000 pounds.
- ‘Riyad Wadia award for Indian emerging filmmaker’ with a cash award of Rs.10,000.
- Best Feature Film will win a cash award of Rs 15,000 sponsored by Time Out.