KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival (MIQFF) is arguably one of the coolest film festivals of Mumbai, with its heart in the right place. It’s quite heartening to see the amount of pride everyone takes in order to put the festival together. The vision of the festival has always been “to encourage greater visibility of Indian and International queer cinema among both queer and mainstream audiences as a means to foster better understanding of queer thoughts, desires and expressions.” Over the years, KASHISH MIQFF has managed to create a space that allows conversations around the same. Right after college, I had joined the KASHISH team as a volunteer in 2014 and two years later, it was great to be back at the festival as their Jury coordinator.
This year, the festival received around 800 entries from 44 countries out of which 180 films were programmed. From India, around 27 films were selected to be a part of the festival. Here are a few of them:
Center Piece Narrative Feature Features:
ALIGARH, 2015, Director: Hansal Mehta
Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh showcases one of the most sensitively portrayed gay characters that came out of mainstream Hindi cinema in recent years. The film is a cinematic case-study of loneliness. It is based on the tragic life story of Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a Marathi professor at the Aligarh Muslim University, who was suspended from his job because of his alternate sexual preference. Manoj Bajpayee plays the role of this harrowed professor who reluctantly fights his own battle and the actor never hits a false note. The film is lyrical, heartbreaking and deeply moving.
I AM NOT HE, SHE… (Nanu Avanalla Avalu), 2015, Director: B.S. Lingadevaru
This Kannada film captures the journey of an effeminate man named Madesha who eventually undergoes ‘nirvana’ or castration in order to become Vidya. It peeps into the tragic lives of transgenders who are subjected to social stigma. The sequence where Madesha goes to Kadappa in order to undergo castration is outright horrific and actor Sanchari Vijay has evoked the precise emotions required, throughout. He rightfully bagged the National Award for best actor last year. Although toward the end, the film becomes outrageously melodramatic, one has to give credit to the actor for his genuine performance.
THE THRESHOLD (Daaravtha), 2015, Director: Nishant Roy Bombarde
In Daaravtha, Nishant Bhavsar plays the role of Pankaj, an endearing adolescent boy from a small town in Maharashtra who likes to apply Mehandi and dance to Sridevi’s songs. He is slowly becoming aware of his sexuality and hence questions patriarchy and gender stereotypes around him. His supportive mother (Nandita Patkar, terrific) stays beside him all through and patiently tries to answer his questions. The film has been beautifully shot and the performances are bound to touch you. Earlier this year, it won the National Award for Best First Non-Feature Film of a Director. Won the Best Indian Narrative Short Award of Rs.20,000 at KASHISH 2016.
ANY OTHER DAY, 2015, Director: Srikant Ananthkrishnan, Vikrant Dhote
In Any Other Day, we see two boys getting harassed on the road by two cops in the middle of the night for no particular reason. The twist in the tale occurs when the mother of one of these boys comes to their rescue and attacks the police with her wit and presence of mind. The film deals with bullying by people in power and is an important lesson on the misuse of the archaic law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, in today’s context.
Won the Riyad Wadia Award for Best Emerging Indian Filmmaker of Rs.15,000 at KASHISH 2016.
PROJECT INDIAN BRIDE, 2015, Director: Mujeer Pasha
Project Indian Bride deals with transphobia. A photographer wants to cast a transgender for a bridal photo shoot. His pregnant wife and the male model has an issue with this. The performances by the actors are sincere and Mujeer Pasha raises a few sensitive and poignant questions through his film which eventually ends on a happy note.
MANAM, 2015, Director: Balaji M.
Manam is the story of two independent transwomen who live together despite societal challenges. One of them has a strong urge to adopt a child as she believes that only being a mother would complete her womanhood. The portrayal of these ladies in the film are real and the film manages to touch a few emotional cords.
NORMALCY, 2015, Director: V. Ramanathan
The documentary is about the regular day-to-day life of a transgender person as a student and homemaker. She recites her story while we see her finish the daily, mundane chores at home. She is a graduate student and is married to an activist. She speaks about the importance of having a strong voice and hopes to adopt a child someday. The non-patronizing, non-dramatic approach makes Normalcy a refreshing watch.
V. Ramanathan won the QDrishti Film Grant of Rs.1,00,000 for his next film at KASHISH 2016.
WALKING THE WALK, 2015, Director: Moses Tulasi
In his documentary, Moses Tulasi follows the participants of Hyderabad’s queer pride march in February 2015. It is interesting to see how the various socio-political movements in the state – be it the fight for Telangana or the Dalit movement blend seamlessly together for a bigger cause of equality.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. I have missed out on a number of other Indian films which were a part of KASHISH MIQFF 2016. The entire list of films can be found on the website: www.mumbaiqueerfest.com