Inside KASHISH 2017: When diversity shone through

Posted on 30 May, 2017 by Team Wishberry

The eighth edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival ended on May 28 with the screening of Loev — a feature film by Sudhanshu Saria that has been picked up by Netflix. It has been widely lauded as an active indicator of how the ‘fringe’ is slowly but surely making its mark in Indian cinema.

KASHISH 2017 was an expression of rebellion against the Draconian system of legislation that is still making its presence felt in the lives of millions across India. The very fact that South Asia’s biggest LGBTQ film festival is held in Mumbai (the hallowed Liberty Cinema in Marine Lines) is, to say the very least, an interesting juxtaposition as to where we stand as a society today. India is truly the land of extremes — a living, breathing and thriving nation where, despite modernization, Section 377 remains a reality and in the same breath, a multifaceted and truly diverse space where a film festival like KASHISH not only survives for eight years, but also makes a difference every time the curtains go up!   

Art as both aesthetics and politics

KASHISH’s opening film Signature Move set the tone for the festival — this was a film about a Pakistani American lawyer who finds the courage to ‘come out’, both literally and figuratively, with the witting/unwitting aid of a potential love interest, a mother who obsesses about the past and the future ‘potential’ in finding her daughter a husband, and wrestling! Fawzia Mirza is a Pakistani-Canadian actor and producer and she wrote Signature Move, drawing from personal experience.


Over the next four days, one witnessed art and activism co-exist seamlessly. The films were all saying the same thing — a voice that wants to be heard makes its way into the consciousness of those who really want to listen! Apricot Groves, an Armenian film detailed one day in the life of Aram, an Iranian-Armenian trans-man who travels to his native land to confront a multitude of emotions — from asking his lover’s hand in marriage, to setting out on a road-trip with his brother to Iran for a surgery that will set in motion his process of transition. Similarly, Escaping Agra was a 23-minute short and it detailed Naveen Bhat’s ordeals and finally, their triumph, after their parents get to know about their sexual orientation. Naveen is non-binary and uses the pronouns them/their.

International cinema aside, it was Indian cinema that made its mark at KASHISH as well. One has to talk about the screening of Sisak, the short film by Faraz Arif Ansari. Hailed as India’s first silent LGBTQ love story, Sisak has been making India proud at international film festivals and its Asia Premiere at KASHISH bore testimony to the fact that good cinema will always, always find its audience. While Sisak was ‘silent’, features such as Devi, Coming Out - India Stories, White Nights, and Chronicles of Hari, made all the right noises.

Other films that left one stunned and in awe included the Brazilian feature Gloria and Grace, Ariel, Scar Tissue and The Fish Curry.

KASHISH as activism

Apart from screening 147 films from 45 countries, what is laudable about KASHISH is the support system that it creates through its various advocacy and outreach programmes. From an acting workshop to a Parents' Support Group Presentation workshop by Solaris Pictures, Liberty Cinema truly became a space where discrimination ceased to exist (at least for 4 days!).

KASHISH is not just a film festival — yes, admittedly, for film buffs it is a great opportunity to catch up on good cinema, but over and above that, this event is about inclusivity. It is about saying a resounding ‘NO’ to gender and sexual preference based discrimination. It is about bringing together people from various backgrounds casting aside social structures such as race and caste. Finally, and most importantly, KASHISH is a nod to those whose identities are constantly questioned, bruised and battered, because society at large cannot make its peace with anything that seems to upset its hierarchy. KASHISH is all about unabashed pride!


Sridhar Rangayan, the man behind KASHISH, complained during one of the sessions that the audience seemed uninterested in cheering for him — we say, Sridhar, take a bow!

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