A Note of Thanks from the Festival Programmer

KASHISH has raised so many questions for me, it is going to take some time to sort them all out. For now I find myself wanting just to share my deepest gratitude with all the filmmakers who became a part of our journey, sharing their work at this very first edition of KASHISH.

I also thank our total team of volunteers, projection-room technicians, venue managers and core committee members without whose cohesive support we could not have had the seamless screenings of the programmed films. A special thanks also to our venue partners - Alliance Francaise de Bombay and PVR Cinemas who contributed to realize our dream of mainstreaming queer cinema. And how can we not mention our ever-enthusiastic and eager Jury, who gave us their valuable time and viewed not only the ‘in competition’ films but even the non-competitive ones too. We thank them for their supportive and encouraging gesture throughout.

My greatest thanks go to the delegates. Following the record registration figure of 900 plus, seeing the large crowds attending even the allied events, braving the presence of media flash, queuing up patiently for the screenings many a times to be turned back because there were no more seats available, the several houseful shows at the112 seater PVR Audi-5 especially on the last day – all combined was the true ‘kashish’, the true allurement, at this Festival

Thank you dear delegates! Hope we continue to receive your love and support to make KASHISH grow bigger and bigger. Esi ummeed ke saath ki Kashish ke liye aapki kashish aisi hi bani rahegi, see you all and everyone at KASHISH 2011.        
~ Saagar Gupta

Four days of Films-N-Fun at Kashish: A report

Kashish 2010 - Day 1:  What you missed (and we wish you hadn't)

Kashish - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival had a star-studded opening on Thursday with some of the cast of 'I Am' inaugurating the four-day fest.

Director Onir led his cast members, Manisha Koirala, Rahul Bose, Sanjay Suri and Purab Kohli in lighting the traditional lamp at PVR Juhu to declare the film festival open. This is the first queer film festival in India of international stature. It is also probably the first in India to be held at a mainstream venue.

"I am really proud that Mumbai is hosting an international queer film festival of this stature," said actor Manisha Koirala. Sanjay Suri, who is also producing I Am, echoed this sentiment. "I wish this film festival had happened five years ago so that we could have premiered 'My Brother Nikhil' here," said Sanjay, who thanked the UNDP and Humsafar Trust for their support for 'I Am'.

Onir said he was proud to be part of the opening of Kashish. Actor Rahul Bose dwelled on the fact that everyone is a victim of discrimination and stereotyping at some point of time. Onir’s latest film is based on true incidents and is truly a community-owned film, with funds raised through social networking sites and over 400 contributors worldwide coming together in common cause. Four stories of marginalized individuals who are forced to struggle against society, shot in four cities, dealing with four issues never dealt with by so-called mainstream cinema: I AM AFIA, I AM OMAR, I AM ABHIMANYU, I AM MEGHA.

Earlier during the opening ceremony, anchor Neha called upon festival directors Sridhar Rangayan and Vivek Anand and Ashok Row Kavi, Technical Officer Sexual Minorities Desk at UNAIDS India and the founder of Humsafar Trust to take the stage and set things in motion.

"We always wanted to get a queer film festival of international standards to Mumbai," said Sridhar. "This year the screenings are at Audi 5; I have a dream that at next year's edition of Kashish all five screens at PVR would screen the film festival," said Vivek. Ashok said that UNDP and UNAIDS would continue their support of Kashish.

Sridhar introduced the jury members: theatre person DOLLY THAKORE; actor SUHASINI MULAY; playwright MAHESH DATTANI; actor RAJIT KAPUR; and film critic MEENAKSHI SHEDDE. Dolly Thakore expressed her unflinching support for the cause. Mahesh commended the Kashish team for "visibilising the invisibles.' Suhasini Mulay and Rajit Kapur said they were amazed at the talent reflected in the films, including the Indian entries, many of which were first-time efforts.

The screenings began at 10 am simultaneously at PVR Juhu and Alliance Francaise, Manine Lines, to packed audiences.
The highlights of Day 1 were 'Flying Inside My Body' - a documentary on photographer Sunil Gupta; two documentaries by Sophia College students `Engayging Lives’ and 'Speak Up, It's Not your fault'; and a panel discussion on cinema and censorship with panelists censor board member Nandini Sardesai, anti-censorship activist Gargi Sen, filmmaker Vinta Nanda and Ashok Row Kavi, moderated by Paromita Vohra.

Nandini and Gargi took diametrically opposite stands on the issue while others questioned the need for censoring films in the age of mobile MMS/online videos. Ashok Row Kavi held the audience enthralled with his unique take on queer representation in cinema.

To view pictures of the opening ceremony, please click on this link to get into an online folder containing the images (no sign-in required): https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B4aUlkRoQ5jgOWY2NGU2NmMtY2NkZi00M2QzLTllN2QtMDIwMWY4NzY1MDYy&hl=en_GB

To view pictures of the opening gala held at Vie Lounge Juhu on the eve of the festival (ie 21 April), please click on this link that will take you to the online folder (again, no sign-in required) https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B4aUlkRoQ5jgNzE3NTczNDQtNTU3Ni00NTBiLThkMWEtZjI4ZGJlZGIxNDAx&hl=en_GB

Day 2 of Kashish - Friday, April 23, 2010
It was a day for the girls. At PVR Juhu, there were two special film packages for women in love with women and a retrospective of lesbian filmmaker Pratibha Parmar.

Films in the `Love stories for Girls' and `Girls Talk' packages were all about the first kiss from the girlfriend, blind dates and caring but bitchy lovers.

"The intention was to make it a sort of community outing so that a whole group of girl friends could come to the theatre together to meet, watch the films and talk," said festival director Sridhar Rangayan.

The highlights of the day were `The Other War' - a tale from Israel about three women caught in the middle of a war, 'U-Haul: The Music Video' and 'Jodie: An icon'.

The T in LGBT was represented through two poignant movies, 'The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquella' and 'Unraveling Michelle', a journey through the male to female transition of a filmmaker.

In the afternoon, Onir, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, Mahesh Dattani, Meenakshi Shedde and Ashok Row Kavi came together for a discussion on role of the media and celebrity in advocacy, moderated by Parmesh Shahani. 
The discussion began with a brief flashback into queer representation in Indian cinema in recent years. 

Mahesh said that being at Kashish has brought home the fact that 12 years after writing the play 'A Muggy Night in Mumbai' on a gay theme, it's good to know that one is not alone on the subject of gay love, that there are other writers using this theme. 

Meenakshi Shedde, who was asked about 'Dostana' said that the movie was intelligent in the way the many layers of queer issues were represented in a movie that reached the mass market, hence the film is precious in its own way. 
However, she praised 'Sancharam' for being a bold film that gave such dignity to same-sex love, in contrast to 'Dostana'. She also said that the upcoming 'Just Another Love Story' is also very sophisticated and brings out a nuanced discussion on alternate sexuality.

Ashok Row Kavi said that the last 15 years of the LGBT movement have been marked by fear and anxiety connected to Section 377. Carrying over from the panel discussion on cinema and censorship the previous day at the Alliance Francaise venue of Kashish, he said that why should only Karan Johar be allowed to make money on a Dostana -- why are film festivals like Kashish barred by the government from charging their delegates? We must have sustainable models for festivals in India.

Manav revealed that while being an out gay man and belonging to a royal family at the same time has brought him much love and respect abroad, he feels a great sense of responsibility from both these identities and he has had to keep a balance between the two. Manav said that he can't help it if he was born into a royal family but he would prefer being known as an activist. He tells other gay royals who are unwilling to come out to at least support the LGBT community in other ways.

Onir revealed how 'My Brother Nikhil' was his first film so it was important to position it. He had to 'cheat' the mainstream audience into watching his HIV-themed film by not highlighting the fact that a gay couple was at the centre of the film. After the theatrical release, the film went to gay festivals and events everywhere. Five years after that film, he finds himself more confident as a filmmaker and has a film 'I AM' with the 'I AM OMAR' story highlighting police harassment of and social discrimination against gay men. Incidentally, the trailer of 'I AM ' was premiered at the Kashish opening ceremony on Thursday.

Parmesh raised various questions related to celeb culture and the commoditization of culture including identities like 'queer'. Why are there not enough celebrities supporting the queer cause? Why are there very few queer celebrities? Ashok Row Kavi said that four of Bollywood's biggest directors are gay but closeted. They better be ashamed. At least I have Onir on my side. He added that we must not completely depend on celebrities; what's needed is a mass movement that walks on the feet of activists.

Onir said it is important to have the right kind of celebrities endorsing queer issues, people who really believe in what they are saying. For example, we should not have an actor doing a pretend-gay role. Meenaskshi said there was no way of avoiding celeb culture but one way of taking advantage of it is to sensitize the intelligent celebrities about queer issues. Another way is for the queer community to take a stand on the other large issues that concern society which will open up our connections with it.

The discussion was punctuated with a lot of humor thanks to Ashok Row Kavi and Manav.

Kashish started distributing among its delegates complimentary copies of a booklet of extracts from a new shorty story collection called 'Quarantine' by debutant Rahul Mehta, thanks to publisher Random House.    

Day 3 of Kashish - Saturday, April 24, 2010
A year and a half after director and playwright Chetan Datar's death, his path breaking play ‘Ek Madhav Baug’ was translated into Hindi. A play reading by Mona Ambegaonkar brought the roof down at PVR Juhu.

An emotional Vivek Anand, CEO of Humsafar Trust and a close friend of Datar, who translated the play into Hindi, said it was a huge moment for him personally. ‘EK Madhav Baug” was staged in Marathi and English and there were plans to always do a Hindi version, which never happened during Datar's lifetime," said Vivek.

A tale about an unconventional mom's discovery of her son's sexuality and her efforts to deal with it, got a standing ovation from the audience for Mona.

"Society may not be there to always support you and agree with your choices, but you have to go ahead with your journey irrespective," said Mona. Asked about how should parents deal with a lesbian or gay child, she replied, "It should be a hands-off approach, but be there to support them."

Mona's performance not only got a standing ovation but brought tears into many eyes.

Saturday also saw the houseful sign going up for four consecutive sessions at the 112-seater PVR Juhu.

The other highlights of the day were ‘Suddenly, Last Winter’ - about how a couple deals with a wave of homophobia sweeping through Italy; ‘Prodigal Sons and ‘Amnesia: The James Brighton Enigma’.

There were many transgender-themed films at the Alliance Francaise today and the highlight there was a panel discussion called 'Trans Gaze -- the world of transgenders through the lens'. The panelists were the makers of a film called 'Our Family', Dr. Anjali Monteiro and Dr. K. P. Jayashankar, who belong to Tata Institute of Social Sciences; Prasanth Kanatur, whose film 'The Missing Colours' is being shown at the festival, and Urmi, head of the 'Care and Support' unit of Humsafar Trust. The discussion was moderated by Dalip Daswani.

Author R. Raj Rao attended some of the sessions at the Alliance Francaise along with friends from Pune.

Final day of Kashish- Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2010

Zeenat Aman at Kashish
`Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko' - the audience could well have sung to her as Zeenat Aman traipsed down the red carpet at PVR Juhu on Sunday. The occasion was the closing of Kashish - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2010, just before the screening of the festival closing film ‘Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyu’.
"In the '70s, I was at the forefront of the hippie moment with 'Hare Ram Hare Krishna'; 'Dunno Y...' will similarly lead the new wave of queer films in the country," said Zeenat Aman, who led the cast and crew of the yet to be released film, including Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and debutants Yuvraaj Parashar and Kapil Sharma.
"When Kapil came to me with the story of 'Dunno Y…' I thought it was different, multi-layered with many shades," said Zeenat while speaking about the movie. "Bollywood has for years had dress designers, make-up artistes and hair dressers who were open about their sexuality and were accepted," she said, but in answer to an audience question she said, "I personally don't know of any gay actors who are in the closet."
Zeenat said that though Bollywood has fleetingly touched upon queer issues in films like 'Dostana', there was a change afoot to deal with the issue sensitively. Asked about the secret of her beauty, she replied modestly with a smile, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder."
Sanjay Sharma, the director of 'Dunno Y…', said that he was proud that it was the festival's closing film. The film's writer and actor Kapil Sharma said: "Our film is on a sensitive issue. We hope it entertains you and leaves you with a smile."
Dunno Y…’ is a film about an Anglo-Indian family living in Goa that goes through many crises – from a father who deserts the family to a son who comes to terms with his sexuality after his marriage. The film is a contemporary take on what it means to be gay in India where social taboos and family pressures do not allow a person to fulfill his need for love.

‘Lost and Found’ wins Best Indian Short at Kashish
Delhi-based filmmaker Shrenik Jain's `Lost and Found' won the Best Indian Short Film Award at the Kashish - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2010. ‘Lost and Found’ is an 11-minute film about a comedy of errors that follows when two strangers meet in a crowded bus.

The awards were handed out at a ceremony at PVR Juhu on Sunday evening. The Best Short Documentary award went to Bharathy Manjula's Malayalam film 'XXWhy' about Kerala's first out female-to-male (F2M) transgender.

'Prodigal Sons' directed by Kimberly Reed, and 'Steam' directed by Eldar Rapaport, both from the USA, won Best Feature Documentary and Best International Short Film awards, respectively, at the festival.
Special jury cash awards were also handed out to 'Flying Inside My Body' (Short Documentary),
'Holding Hands' (Feature Documentary) and 'Dirty Magazines' (International Short Film), and a special jury award to a media student's film - 'Speak Up! It Is Not Your Fault'.
The jury was effusive in their praise for the films screened at the festival. "I enjoyed my four-day journey with Kashish," said Dolly Thakore, a theatre personality. "I wish these films could reach out and be shown to a wider audience," she said.
Reaching out to a larger audience should be the aim was also the view of another jury member and a film critic, Meenakshi Shedde. "The quality of the Indian films shown at Kashish was jaw dropping. They dealt with a spectrum of issues and were multi-layered. Even at international film festivals like Cannes and Venice, out of the many films screened, there are four of five that remain with you. At Kashish too, there are four to five films that I will take home and remember, said Meenakshi.
Jury member and nation-award winning actor Rajit Kapur credited Kashish with broadening his horizons and widening his perspective. "I do consider myself educated, liberal and modern. I am leaving Kashish after four days as a richer human being," said Kapur, adding, "These films should be a part of any mainstream film festival. This is a part of you, me, us."
Another jury member and again a National Award winning actor, Suhasini Mulay, also heaped praise on the films. "The caliber and craftsmanship of the filmmakers just got me...," she said. "The Indian entries were sensitive and well-made. They may have been made without much money, but conveyed what they wanted to say. That is the core of a good film."
Over the last four days, over 500 people came to watch the over 110 films that were screened simultaneously at two venues - PVR Juhu in suburban Mumbai and Alliance Francaise, Marine Lines in South Mumbai. 

"We never expected the film festival to get such a huge response," said Sridhar Rangayan, festival director.

The audience too was all praise for the film festival. Jehangir Jani, an artist known for alternative themes in his sculptures and paintings, commented on the platform that Kashish provided for the community. "When I came out in the '80s I never knew anything about gay culture, except in snatches. Kashish is a landmark event because something like this has got a mainstream venue and is in the public eye."

As Dolly Thakore told Ashok Row Kavi, founder of Bombay Dost and Humsafar Trust, co-organisers of Kashish: “Little did one know that when we met in the early ’80s, you would start a [gay] movement of such dimensions [in India]. What a wonderful team you have orchestrated… so disciplined and professional. You have to be proud of your success. I can’t begin to tell you how privileged I feel to have participated in your maiden venture. Congratulations. More power to you.”

-- By the Kashish 2010 News Desk


KASHISH - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival rocked and how. Houseful shows, jam packed audiences, world premiers, star attendance, media coverage, etc.

We thank each and everyone who supported KASHISH in so many different ways and all those who came to see films, participate and made KASHISH an event to remember.

We will be uploading information of all the events, behind the scene action, etc on the site soon.

A BIG THANKS to everyone!

KASHISH Award Winners

The following films received awards  at KASHISH MIQFF2010.

The jury were extremely kind to pool in Rs.85,000 to award cash prizes for the main winners of the four categories as well as special jury awards for a few other deserving films.

Category: Documentary Short

Best Documentary Short - XXWHY by Dr Bharathy Manjula, India
Jury Citation: For a moving film made with fluidity, honesty, superb cinematography and restrained emotions
Award: Kashish plaque and jury cash award of Rs.15,000

Special Jury Award - FLYING INSIDE MY BODY by Sushmit Ghosh, Rintu Thomas, Sumit Sharma and Ajeeta Chowhan, India
Jury Citation: For a stark film exploring sexuality and identity, with honesty and first-rate cinematic values 
Award: Jury cash award of Rs.10,000

Special Jury Award for Student Film - SPEAK UP! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT by Deepika Lal, India
Jury Citation: For a focused, mature approach to child sexual abuse, made with sensitivity and personal courage
Award: Jury cash award of Rs.5,000 

Category: Feature Documentary

Best Documentary Feature - PRODIGAL SONS by Kimberly Reed, USA
Jury Citation: For weaving a range of sexual and personal challenges cohesively, and with courage
Award: Kashish plaque and jury cash award of Rs.15,000

Special Jury Award - HOLDING HANDS by Tonnette Stanford and Katherine Wilkinson, Australia
Jury Citation: For a touching film, intimately conveying the struggle, and hope, of living with homophobia
Award: Jury cash award of Rs.10,000

Category: International Short

Best International Short - STEAM by Eldar Rapaport, USA
Jury Citation: A compelling thriller, it encompasses a whole socio-political world with deft, cinematic brilliance.
Award: Kashish plaque and jury cash award of Rs.10,000
Special Jury Award - DIRTY MAGAZINES by Jay Levy, USA
Jury Citation: An over-the-edge view of a real situation, that makes its point with sensitivity
Award: Jury cash award of Rs.5,000

Special Jury Award - I AM GAY (Jag Ar Bog) by Nicolos Kolovos, Sweden
Jury Citation: A humorous look at the agonies of coming out in a traditional family 
Award: Jury cash award of Rs.5,000

Category: Indian Short

Best Indian Short - LOST & FOUND by Shrenik Jain
Jury Citation: For sensitively capturing in a few minutes an entire gamut, and the vulnerability, of cruising.
Award: Kashish plaque and jury cash award of Rs.10,000

In addition to the above awards, three films received special awards sponsored by ACCORD EQUIPS, Mumbai. 

Film: XXWHY by Dr Bharathy Manjula, India
Award: Complete HD camera shooting kit (consisting of 1 HD camera, 1 mic, 1 light) for their next short film for 2 days.  

Film: LOST & FOUND by Shrenik Jain, India
Award: Complete HD camera shooting kit (consisting of 1 HD camera, 1 mic, 1 light) for their next short film for 2 days.  

Film: SPEAK UP! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT by Deepika Lal, India
Award: Complete HDV camera shooting kit (consisting of 1 HD camera, 1 mic, 1 light) for their next short film for 2 days.  


The Latest and the Best of Indian and International Queer Cinema

Solaris Pictures & Bombay Dost in association with the Humsafar Trust presents


110 Queer Films | 4 Days | 2 Venues

PVR Cinema Juhu – April 22-25, 2010

Alliance Francaise, Marine Lines – April 22-24, 2010 


KASHISH - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival , April 22nd to April 25th, 2010 promises four days of queer celebration across many platforms of artistic expressions.

KASHISH presents 110 films from 25 countries. It brings together film makers, writers, intellectuals, academicians, activists, stars and celebrities with both queer and mainstream audience in an interactive celebration of the queer experience.

All the films screened highlight gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters and stories, exploring issues, dilemmas, joys and sorrows that make up queer experiences and expressions in India and globally.

KASHISH will be held simultaneously at two venues -

PVR Cinemas, Juhu in the Western suburbs - April 22-25, 2010.
Alliance Francaise in South Mumbai - April 22 - 24, 2010

Apart from film screenings, KASHISH will also feature Panel Discussions, Music Video launch, Filmmaker Interfaces, etc.


Only persons ABOVE THE AGE OF 18 can register to attend the festival
Festival Entry is ONLY for pre-registered Delegates
Registration is FREE OF COST.
A valid Photo ID and Proof of Age is to be carried for admission to all screenings.

To register you need to fill out the Delegate Registration Form and submit it to obtain aDelegate Pass.

Delegate Registration Forms are available for downloaded at www.mumbaiqueerfest.com

Delegate Registration Forms are available at

1. KASHISH Festival Office - Centre for Excellence & Research (CEFE), No.2, Riviera, 15th Road, Santacruz (W), Mumbai - 400 054 Phone: +91. 22. 6576 0357, Contact Person: Gautam Yadav

2. Azaad Bazaar, 16th/33rd Road Bandra (West), Mumbai, Opp Mini Punjab , in the same lane as KFC , Mumbai, India; email: mail@azaadbazaar.com , Phone: +91.9930212636


Kashish - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is organized by Solaris Pictures and Bombay Dost in association with The Humsafar Trust. The festival is supported with grants from UNDP, UNAIDS and Movies That Matter (an initiative of Amnesty International).


Email: kashishmqff@gmail.com | info.kashish2010@gmail.com
Website: http://www.mumbaiqueerfest.com | Blog: http://mqff2010.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kashish2010 | Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Kashish.MIQFF

KASHISH Venue Announced

KASHISH - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival will screen at PVR Cinema Juhu and Alliance Francaise

PVR Cinemas, Juhu - April 22-25, 2010
Alliance Francaise, Marine Lines - April 22-24, 2010

To attend, you need to register as Delegate. Please see details below.


Kashish - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, 2010 welcomes persons only ABOVE THE AGE OF 18 to attend the festival by filling out the Registration Form and submitting it to obtain a Delegate Pass. Festival Entry is ONLY for pre-registered Delegates. Registration is FREE OF COST. A valid Photo ID and Proof of Age is to be carried for admission to all screenings. 

Delegate Registration Forms may be downloaded here

Delegate Registration Forms are also available at 
  • 1.KASHISH Festival Office - Centre for Excellence & Research (CEFE), Ground floor, Riviera, 15th Road, Santacruz (W), Mumbai - 400 054
    Phone: +91. 22. 6576 0357, Contact Person: Gautam Yadav
  • 2. Azaad Bazaar, 16th/33rd Road Bandra (West), Mumbai, Opp Mini Punjab , in the same lane as KFC , Mumbai, India
    mail@azaadbazaar.com , Phone: +91.9930212636

Dostana Outreach - Economic Times

3 Apr 2010, 0015 hrs IST

Vikram Doctor, ET Bureau

Film festivals and sex have a dubious reputation. There have been too many cases in the past when serious film enthusiasts have found themselves being swamped by viewers whose enthusiasm seemed to lie more in the uncensored nature of the films on view at festivals. So it’s heartening to know that sex and films can interact in a more positive way - when the issue is not just sex, but sexuality and the diversities that exist there.

Film festivals showcasing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-themed films are becoming popular events for the queer community in India. In February this year, over three days, the Bangalore Queer Film Festival showcased 46 features, short and documentary films, including A Single Man, Tom Ford’s Oscar-nominated film. This weekend in Mumbai, Queer Nazariya kicks off with a range of queer films, including eight Indian ones, and a special showcase of films from South Africa. And at the end of this month another Mumbai-based festival, Kashish - the Mumbai International Queer Film Festival - will be screening 110 films from 25 countries in two locations, one downtown, one suburban, with the aim of reaching out to as large an audience as possible.

These are not the first queer film festivals to be held in India. Some years ago, in Mumbai a festival called Larzish ran for two years. For several years now a festival named after the pioneering gay activist Siddhartha Gautam has been having a one-day festival, and queer rights groups across the country like Nigaah, the Humsafar Trust, Gaybombay and many more have regularly organised events based on the screening of queer films.

Films are an effective way for engaging with a community. People who are still in the process of coming out about their sexuality and still nervous about engaging with other gays and lesbians, can find film screenings a useful way to take part in a queer event, without putting an unnerving spotlight on themselves.

Vinay Chandran, one of the organisers of the Bangalore fest notes: “There are so many issues facing this community and it can be hard dealing with all of them, and sometimes activists themselves have problems with the issue of how to articulate them. But at a film festival you can show films on all these subjects and it helps people get familiar with them and start talking.”

Film festivals also allow the screening of films from outside Hollywood releases that distributors mostly get in. There’s been a recent upsurge in queer films being made in Asia, particularly from countries like Taiwan, Thailand and Philippines, and these are often of more relevance to Indian audiences since many of the subjects, like dealing with families, tend to be the same. But there’s little dissemination of these in India, which is where film festivals can play a role.

“At Queer Nazariya we clearly wanted to show films that reflected more than the Western influence which is why we got the South African selection,” says Smriti Nevatia, a scriptwriter and one of the organisers. This sort of engagement is not just among gays and lesbians, but also with society at large.

Many events for the queer community are meant for queer people alone - understandable when so many people are still nervous about revealing their identity, but it does result in the exclusion and change for education of other people. Film festivals, while technically usually private events, by their nature do allow a wider interaction.

Nevatia explains that in the run-up to the festival they did curtain raisers at colleges across the city, usually going through campus film societies, and showing a selection of films and using them to talk about queer issues. Students of Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods showed much keenness in attending Nazariya’s sessions.

“At these sessions, we can get very mixed reactions, including some negative ones,” she says. “But these are often countered from people with that class, and what’s important is that you are getting these discussions going.”

One reason there’s been particular interest in such discussions is, of course, the decision of the Delhi High Court last year decriminalising consensual homosexuality. All the film festival organisers say that this did not directly affect their plans, which were often long brewing, but it probably did have an indirect effect, especially in the interest being generated by the festivals. “The verdict has become a catalyst for many queer activities across India,” says Sridhar Rangayan, one of India’s first openly gay filmmakers, and one of the organisers of Kashish. “The increasing focus on queer issues in the media has not only brought in a greater comfort level among queer persons, but also about queers in mainstream society. So what better place than a film festival to bring them all together?”

In the past, film screenings were often informal, using films sourced from friends travelling abroad, without obtaining formal permission from the filmmakers. With all these three festivals, the organisers were careful to get full permissions, even though this made it a much more lengthy exercise. “We started last September and it really took a lot of effort, finding interesting films, tracking down directors, getting permissions and requesting DVDs,” says Chandran.

A particular coup for the Bangalore fest was getting permission for A Single Man, in the news because of the Oscars and likely to get a commercial release in India. PVR, the distributors, clearly felt there was some value in giving the film publicity at such a targeted event. “There is an understanding at both ends that like LGBT, film festivals will soon be a market for filmmakers and distributors and audiences to see queer films,” says Vivek Anand, another one of the Kashish organisers. Rangayan adds tantalisingly, “We have lined up a sneak preview, with its stars in attendance, of a very important Indian film that will be released later this year.”

Big film festivals like Cannes or Berlin are, of course, also monetarily important for filmmakers, since they will have a chance to sell their film, can compete for substantial prize money and can usually expect a screening fee. Much smaller community film festivals like these still can’t offer anything like that (although Queer Nazariya has managed to raise funds for a token fee), so one can wonder why filmmakers send their films, often at their own cost. As a filmmaker himself, Rangayan admits that it can be a tough decision whether to send the film, but he settles for a mix of sometimes going with it for reach, and other times for money.

It helps that, as Chandran notes, most queer filmmakers are also activists, and have had the experience of organising similar events, and realise the need to support fledgling events. “As the festival grows over the years we do intend to pay filmmakers a token screening fee,” says Rangayan. “Or at least reward them with other possibilities - like hosting them at the festival and interacting with the audience.” In the end filmmakers do want their work seen, and as Nevatia notes, a film festival can be seen as analogous to a library, a way to get visibility that could ultimately help both you personally, and the cause you’re interested in.

Perhaps the toughest issue for organisers is that always lurking issue of sex. Queer activists have always had to fight against attempts at marginalisation, often on grounds of ‘morality’, so they are particularly allergic to the need to censor. Yet most acknowledge the need for a practical accommodation with the need to self-censor particularly explicit material and also, set standards for basic quality. Rangayan says that Kashish applied for the usual blanket permission given for festivals by the I&B ministry, but he admits that this puts some responsibility on organisers: “Though it means self censorship of sort, it is necessary for us at this stage of the queer movement to be a little cautious.”

Still, Rangayan stresses that the overall aim of the film festivals is visibility and asking people to engage, if not necessarily approve. He remembers something a professor in a college said when one of his own films was being shown. “He told his students, ‘You will see some images on screen that could make you uncomfortable, because you have not seen them before. You have two options - you may close your eyes and walk out, or you may stay and watch it and question what is it in the film that makes you uncomfortable?’ 90% of the students stayed back and we had an hour-long lively discussion.” It is that appeal to being seen, and that response, that the organisers of Indian queer film festivals are seeking.