Kashish returns, set to take queer films straight to hearts

New Delhi: It`s time for the queers to get the straight treatment! With over 125 films in different languages from across the globe, the third edition of Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival - the country`s only mainstream LGBT movie extravaganza - is set to open the doors for liberal thinking and acceptance for such films when it starts Wednesday.

The keen interest in the fest, which will open with the Oscar-winning film "Beginners", is evident with the upsurge in the number of straight community members who express their support for it, notes festival director Pallav Patankar.

"Kashish is making a difference in the way a larger society sees LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals and their lives. This time our theme is `For Everyone` - the films that will be screened are not only for LGBT persons, but also their family, friends and colleagues," Patankar told IANS.

"The festival continues to become more mainstream and every year the number of straight delegates entering the festival has grown. It is also showing a steady increase in Indian content as young filmmakers are willing to experiment on the topic with a sensitive approach," added Patankar.

To be held in Mumbai May 23-27, the country-focus this year is on France. And even though Indian filmmakers are ready to deal with homosexuality on screen, filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, also the festival director, feels they will have a lot to learn from the bouquet of French films on the queer theme.

"French films have always had a different approach towards cinema and that is reflected even in their queer films - they are stylish, slick, and manage to depict emotions with very few dialogues. Their study of characters are deep and layered.

"If we may use the word, most of the French films are `cinematic`, with a qualitative stamp. Our Bollywood heritage is also unique, but I feel younger filmmakers can learn an eye for detail and finesse of story-telling from French cinema," Rangayan told IANS.

Rangayan feels French cinema "manages to create an ambience, a mood, a setting that is evocative like the French movie to be shown at Kashish - `Gigola`".

"`Gigola` takes the viewer directly into the gay and lesbian underbelly of France in the 1960s or `Le Fil` (The String) that gives a peek into the rather closeted Tunisian homosexual world," he added.

Nevertheless, Indian films aren`t far behind, thanks to the 2009 decriminalization of homosexuality. Since then, there has been an upsurge in films dealing with this topic.

"This year, Kashish will be screening 20 Indian films which include four feature length films. What is encouraging is that even regional cinema is focusing on the issue with some very interesting portrayals," said Rangayan, who helmed the controversial film "Gulabi Aaina" (The Pink Mirror).

The bouquet includes one movie from each language - Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil/Kannada and Hindi - dealing with transgender characters.

"Actresses like Lillete Dubey, Seema Biswas and Sarita Joshi are expected to attend the event among other well-known names from Bollywood. They bring in substantial media spotlight on the festival. This helps in reaching our message of equality and dignity for LGBT persons to millions across India," said Rangayan.