The time has come! The much awaited 8th edition of The Kashish Mumbai International Queen Film Festival starts tomorrow. Among the bouquet of 147 films, we have some fabulous LBT (Lesbian, Bisexual ad Trans* ) focused films that’d be screened at the festival.
We got lucky this year, and spoke to three internationally acclaimed film-makers on why they went the LBT route this year, and we got some compelling answers.
In conversation with Maaria Sayed, film-maker of Chudala; Karishma Dube, film-maker of Devi; and Rajesh James, film-maker of Naked Wheels.
Maaria Sayed, film-maker of Chudala
Gaysi: Why is queer cinema more about gay-oriented films?
Maaria Sayed: Queer Cinema for me is cinema about identity. I think terminologies such as bisexuality, Trans-Sexuality or heterosexuality are very ‘Queer.’ Deep down inside, we are all trying to make sense of the subtle layers of human existence. For a strange reason our contemporary society still hides from transcendental realities so, I’d think it is natural that our Queer cinema is often limited to and about gay-relationships. Of course, in no way do I consider ‘gay-oriented’ films less important, I just feel it is the beginning of an entire world of emotions, topics and experiences and is extremely welcome.
Rajesh James: It’s an important question but overlooked. What you said is true to my experience. Take any queer film festival; we see more gay films than others. It is because, I think, the patriarchal values unconsciously give them an edge. Though not mainstream, it’s still men’s world, their affairs, their love and pleasure. I think Patriarchy still has got a space in Gay films, though differently. And another argument can be made if we think along with Laura Mulvey, since there are more gay spectators in the general category of queer spectators; these festivals supposedly have to centralize certain desires over others. So it’s ‘natural’ that more gay films than others.
Rajesh James, film-maker of Naked Wheels
Gaysi: There aren’t many film-makers making films that deal with women’s and Trans* sexualities and identities. What made you make one such film?
Maaria Sayed: I wanted to make a film which speaks as closely to the heart as it does to the spiritual side of each and every one of us. With a profound respect for Hindu Mythology, I have always felt sexual identities are extremely overrated and if as a young filmmaker, I do not make the effort to express what I feel, though it might go against the tide of the time, who will? I do believe, that every woman has faced a moment in her life when she knew she could achieve something more easily/ be taken more seriously, if she were seen as a man. I tired to translate that thought on celluloid.
Karishma Dube: I think it’s so exciting to be a woman filmmaker today, but I’m also braced with a certain sense of responsibility that comes with it. There is a responsibility to portray women in a way that challenges the assumptions people usually have from these characters. I grew up around very strong women both at school and at home, and I find it imperative that we are the ones telling our own stories, as opposed to constantly having a male gaze on our experiences. There is plenty is beautiful work by women filmmakers, we just need to work harder to cultivate us an audience as well.
Rajesh James: There are films on Trans and lesbian sexualities and identities. But majority are done by filmmakers who are not Lesbians and Trans. The crucial question here is why there aren’t many films on Trans and lesbian sexualities by those who belong to those identities and sexualities.
I think there are economic, sociological and cultural reasons behind it. I think the majority of transgender people are struggling hard to establish their existence. For them everydayness comes first, film might be their second space. But there are also efforts from the margins to address these issues from within and outside Trans. community. Such a historical as well as sociological understanding will tell us why cinema has become less transgender friendly.
Karishma Dube, film-maker of Devi
Gaysi: What universal theme are you exploring through your film?
Karishma Dube: The film intends to examine class and sexuality within a contemporary Indian family setting- one where social standing and tradition means everything, and individuality and western influence are both shunned and revered in the same breath. It portrays an unconventional family of three women – Tara, a young feisty teenager, her proud single mother and their protective house hold maid.
I have always been confused by how familial our relationship with our domestic help is in India. It’s very close but the lines are drawn very suddenly and when it matters the most. The relationship often reveals itself for what it really is- a business transaction, in spite of all the intimacy. I have grown up around these women, and I think I just wanted to put them in a room to have the conversations that are most uncomfortable to have.#
Rajesh James: My film Naked Wheels is about a journey across South India by a diverse group who belongs to many genders, caste and class. Journey has been used as a motif in the film which stands for the journey of life. The film prioritizes the importance of diversity and moving together. The film celebrates sexuality in all its form and denigrates the conservative position by which people have to suffer. Hence film is a critique on the patriarchal positions and the jingoist exhilarations of the majority.
Gaysi: What do you love about film-making? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a film-maker?
Maaria Sayed: Filmmaking is self-discovery and in its own way a very spiritual experience where we connect with our inner selves and struggle to ensure that the viewer understands us. I love this aspect of communication. In terms of advice, I don’t think I am in a position of give anyone any advice but from my little experience, I’d say- make films that are personal and talk about the one feeling that you are not able to define- the one emotion that bogs you down and affects you immensely. Somehow in the process of understanding your own perspective, you might create something genuine.
Karishma Dube: I love the collaborative aspect of filmmaking. My DP Zamarin Wahdat and the entire core crew of the film are all writer- directors as well. It has been so inspiring working with such good artists, I learnt a lot.
Rajesh James: I don’t know exactly what I do love about filmmaking. I seriously enjoy it and it colours my life in many ways. I don’t believe in advices and who am I to advice the great minds close to me. I followed my impulses.