Mumbai hosts third queer film fest

Mumbai With no major homophobia expressed by the police or state secretariat officials and no tantrums from ultra-right wing gay-bashing groups on the horizon, India's only queer film festival Kashish seems to have just had an uneventful start here. Organisers of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) festival Kashish 2012 claim that if protests do at all happen at the film festival site, then they would reserve seats for the protestors so that they "understood" what queer is all about. "This year we required further permissions from the Mantralaya (Maharashtra government's state secretariat) as well as local police and we have not encountered any major homophobia," Pallav Patankar, one of the festival directors, told IANS. "Many government agencies are curious about the film festival, then amused when they understand what queer means and then very accepting and happy that we are doing it with the complete knowledge of the government machinery," he added. Scheduled to be held during May 23-27, the third edition of Kashish 2012, promises to screen 125 films, programmed in a manner where queer characters and queer stories are part of a larger narrative, which the organisers hope appeals to a wide cross section of audience. In keeping with the "For Everyone" theme of the Kashish 2012, the other festival director Sridhar Rangayan claims that both the opening film "Beginners" and the closing film "Weekend" reflected the theme best. "They are necessarily queer films because they are love stories that are human. 'Beginners' is as much about Ewan McGregor and his relationship with his girlfriend as it is about Christopher Plummer and his gay lover. It is a story of hearts. Similarly the film 'Weekend' is about two people meeting over a weekend and falling in love. It could as well be a film about a man and a woman," Rangayan said. "These films bridge the divide between queer and mainstream films, rather blur them...,"he added. The organisers claimed that several celebrities were scheduled to participate as well as attend the festival, whose jury comprises well known actors, filmmakers, theatre personalities and critics - Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, Renuka Shahane, Parvin Dabas, Mona Ambegoankar and Mayank Shekar. "Moushumi Chatterjee is unveiling the queer art exhibition. We have many celebrity filmmakers and actors coming for the opening - like Sai Paranjpye, Parvati Balgopalan, Suchitra Pillai, Ashustosh Rana, Sarita Joshi as well as celebrity queer activists like Ashok Row Kavi, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Manvendra Singh Gohil gracing the occasion," Sridhar said. Sridhar said that the organisers would love to have a queer film category within the mainstream film festival or have a queer award in a mainstream film festival like the Teddy awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, which he said would eliminate the need for a "separate queer film festival". "There would be no separate queer film festival if the queer people are absolutely integrated, accepted in the mainstream and given equal rights," he said. Asked how the organisers would react to a possible outrage by hardliner right-wing groups that have been known in the past for protesting several queer- oriented do's, Pallav said: "We will cross the bridge when we come to it. That is what the film festival is all about".