Out of the Box: An article in Mid-Day, Mumbai!

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Out of the box

Source: Mid-Day, Mumbai

By: Paromita Vohra

Date: 2010-04-25

Place: Mumbai

At a film screening earlier this week, an auditorium full of people settled down to watch a short and a documentary about courtship and marriage. The short film, featured two kisses that had stuck in the maw of the censor board (who finally gave it an A certificate) and some discussion ensued about whether this made sense to the audience or not — were the kisses prurient? Should U certified films not contain such intimacies for fear of corrupting families (why ask how families are produced in the first place, baba, what indecency!)?

Suddenly a perky young man plaintively asked “But how come there was there no homosexual kissing?” A minute of perplexed silence — it was a film about a man proposing to a woman two weeks before her wedding to another man. Even two years ago people would have been uncomfortable at best, censorious at worst — not saying the question was “bad” but that it was “silly” — which is so often liberal people’s pompous way of avoiding talk of sex. However, very quickly the audience understood that the unfortunate chap had perhaps thought he was attending a queer film festival that was to kickstart at the same venue two days later and he was helpfully and kindly enlightened. He lapsed into his seat resigned and watched the next film with dark glasses on, maybe to ensure that none of his cooler friends recognised him in this primarily heterosexual audience — which is perfectly understandable.

Within one month the city has hosted two queer film festivals — Queer Nazariya in early April and the ongoing Kashish Queer Film Fest. Kashish is a tempting array of the political, the romantic, the issue-based and the whimsical from around the world — putting on an equal footing, unlike most film festivals in the country, documentaries, shorts, features, campaigns and music videos. The programming messes with both, the strict political categories of how sexuality is understood, and the way the market and the government divide art forms into creative hierarchies.

If only this form-free continuum could enter our public and personal understanding of sexuality too. In a superb interview, Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh while discussing his acting turn in a film as a transgender performer said: Section 377 has created a polarity between homosexuals and heterosexuals. It doesn’t deal with the entire matrix of sexualities in between these two polars — that’s where androgyny lies.”

This is a vital thought that touches everyone’s intimate selves. While years of activism have finally made it possible to talk about gay-ness and bisexuality, there is a fear it may remain in a separated, though vocal discussion space. But right now, heterosexuality is perhaps the most unthinkingly boxed up of all. Between the moral police and a fake sense of freedom that comes from belonging to a “normal” or mainstream identity, we hardly raise questions about the sexual and erotic nature of heterosexual experience; Couple-dom and monogamy, single only till married, seem to be the only sexual choices we discuss — we hardly talk about the many ways of being straight sexual beings that are actually practised by people. We allow a censor board to tell us we cannot watch a kiss, that wonderful open quotation mark of desire, for fear of obscenity corrupting us. As if the market dictated ideas of plastic love, conformist gym-made bodies and the salacious eye of reality television had not corrupted and distorted our relationship with a most human part of ourselves.

Hopefully the Cinematograph Act will take off its dark glasses soon. Meanwhile, we must keep searching for a more fluid art, more porous definitions through which to celebrate our many ways of living and desiring in this world.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer, teacher and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. She runs Devi Pictures production company. Reach her at www.parodevi.com


Festival Diary: Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Fest 2010: Dearcinema.com

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Source: Dearcinema.com

Submitted by Ameya Bahulekar on 23 April 2010 – 12:03am | 0 Comments

The lights went off in the awaiting theatre room. The seat number on the ticket didn’t matter as people sat wherever they liked. To my left was a male couple, holding hands and waiting for the movie to start. To my right was a female couple also holding hands and waiting anxiously for the movie to begin. The row in front of me had a big bunch of guys not really bothered about the movie but who were, none the less, happy to be together.

It was the first day of the ‘Kashish’ Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. The venue was PVR cinemas in Juhu. The documentaries dominated the lineup. The theme was, as we all know, LGBT movies. From documentaries of a queer photographer to exploring the artistic side of “alternative” gender artists, the product on screen was quite intriguing. And the (mostly queer) audience received the movies well.

‘Speak up! Its not your fault’ was another documentary which had quite the punch. Dealing with issues related to child abuse and homosexuality in the society. The other movies like ‘Bomgay’, ‘Surviving Sabu’, and ‘Assume Nothing’ were some movies talking about various social issues faced by many queer people. There was a section called ‘of perceptions and personas’ which had documentaries of people dressing up or impersonating the members of the opposite sex. ‘Me as He’ was one which talked about dragkings i.e. females who dress up as males and perform on stage and entertain. Similarly, ‘Dorian: a picture’ talked about the life of Rick Colantino, a female impersonator who starred in movies like ‘Sheman.’ ‘Get happy’ too was in the same league talking about the life of Mark Payne, and his early childhood days where he used to dress up like pop divas like Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand and perform to his friends.

One of the most hilarious musicals was ‘Fruit Fly’ the story of a Filipina performance artist on a quest to find her maternal parents. The people she meets and the simple way the plot is carried out was a joy to watch. The songs too were funny with a pinch of bold and adult humour. The theatre was thundering with laughter.

As the evening progressed and a lot of movies were seen, it was clear that queer people now have a voice and a platform to put forth their arguments. As spreading awareness and talking about issues these people face was the motive of the festival, they are heading straight towards their goal. But if only people open up to such worlds, there can be a common plane of understanding. As a form of cinema and art, these are just expressions. But they hold a great value when it comes to our living environment at large. It’s a start and so far so good. Who knows what will be next. Section 377, are you listening?

Queer celebration at film festival in Mumbai: DNA-Mumbai

April 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Source: DNA- India, Mumbai edition

An article by: Namita Handa / DNA

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mumbai: Tinsel town has witnessed and hosted many film festivals, but the one starting today is a class apart. Kashish – Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, starts from April 22 to April 25, promises four days of queer celebration across many platforms of artistic expression.

For the very first time Kashish will make its entry into the world of multiplexes. The films will be screened at two venues – Alliance Française, Marine Lines and PVR in Juhu.

There are 110 films that will be screened across 25 countries. Festival director Kashish, Sridhar Rangayan said, “From India alone there are 25 films. You might consider it a small number, but India is the second largest representative; there are 33 films from the United States, the highest representative. I thought not many queer films were made in India.”

All the films screened highlight gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters and stories, exploring the diverse realities, complexities, joys and sorrows that make up their experiences in India and across the world.

Rangayan admits that it was a challenge to convince authorities to let the films be screened at the multiplex. “These films talk and deal with serious issues. We are not here to provide titillation, and neither are we trying to sensationalise the movies,” Rangayan said.

Kashish comprises feature films, documentary and even short films. The films they received were short-listed by a self-appointed selection committee.

The committee was very particular about the kind of films they selected. “We don’t want to hurt the Indian sensibility. We had to discard 30 films for various reasons,” Rangayan said. The selected films were submitted to the Indian Broadcast Ministry for their approval.

EnGAYging Lives and Speak Up! It’s Not Your Fault, the former being on homosexuality and the latter on child sexual abuse are documentaries made by students from the social communication media department of Sophia polytechnic.

The festival has received an overwhelming response. Around 700 people registered to watch the film, but the seating capacity is only for 200.

Dry Days: An article on the ‘Groundwater Up Project’

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Source : Time Out Delhi ISSUE 2 Friday, April 16, 2010

A new documentary dives head-on into Delhi’s water crisis, reports Uday Bhatia

Delhi’s water problems have, to varying degrees, become part of most of our lives, so much so that we’ve accepted them as routine. The unevenness of supply, the getting up at six in the morning to fill the tank, the Delhi Jal Board tankers surrounded by warring women and children – there’s nothing new about any of this, and very few Delhiites believe there is anything they can do about it. It is this attitude of resignation that the makers of Groundwater Up, Tarini Manchanda, Katie Gillett and Moriah Mason, want to see evaporate.

Groundwater Up is only 36 minutes long, yet it covers a surprising amount of ground in that time. It begins in upscale south Delhi and proceeds from there to document the havoc that water shortages wreak across the different social strata. The movie is essentially light on its feet, but the prognosis is ultimately bleak; water has become, and will remain for some time, the next civil flashpoint. The sickeningly dirty banks of the Yamuna make an appearance before the scene shifts to the Tehri and Renuka dams, sources identified for providing Delhi water in the future. The film takes on some gravity as it interviews villagers whose homes have been sacrificed to provide water to people hundreds of miles away who want to hose their driveways clean and own private pools. One of the testimonies is particularly touching, as an old woman wryly remarks, “When people ask us where we’re from, now we just say we are the one who live in the lake.”

The filmmakers insist Groundwater Up isn’t a crusade against mismanagement, but rather an effort to understand and simplify a knotty issue. By examining different solutions, such as rainwater harvesting, rejuvenating traditional water systems and de-silting the Surajkund lakes, and chronicling more symbolic efforts like cleaning up the Yamuna banks and organising concerts for awareness, the film makes a brave attempt to end on an optimistic note. Reality may prove to be a tougher taskmaster, but in the meantime, this breezy, informative little film is an appropriate introduction to Delhi’s growing thirst.

Groundwater Up will be screened on Thur Apr 29.

For details, contact the makers at groundwaterup@gmail.com.

‘Arzoo’ showing in Patna – Videofest @ Ravibharati / 1st May 2010

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

The documentary film  ARZOO will be showing in Ravi Bharati Bihar Low Cost Videofest, Patna


Director: Shashi Ghosh Gupta

English (subtitled), 26 min, 2008, India

‘Arzoo’ is the story of Sulekha Ali, a young Muslim woman who is compelled by circumstances to go live in the Shah Alam refugee camp in Ahmedabad, for six months post Gujarat communal riots of 2002. There she works as a volunteer and soon discovers emotional wounds that lie buried below the surface. Her interaction at Shah Alam with the children creates a longing within her to heal and nurture. After leaving the camp Sulekha decides to continue with her work and thus Arzoo Education & Activity Centre, synonymous with her own desires, is born. The film depicts the struggle and resilience of a young woman fighting for her beliefs, against all odds.

Date:    1st May, 2010

Venue: Ravi Bharati Auditorium, Seva Kendra Campus, Kurji, P.O., Sadaquat Ashram, Patna 800010

To order copies of the film, write to us at: underconstruction@magiclanternfoundation.org

India’s gay film festival highlights gay rights: Radio Australia

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au

Read online

In many countries across the world gay film festivals are now an established part of the film industry’s annual calender, but in India it’s something which until now has never been attempted in the mainstream. Mumbai has just wrapped up hosting India’s largest gay film festival, screening more than 100 films from around the world in two cinemas. But many see the Kahish festival as a step forward for gays rights in India.

Presenter: Anna Cunningham

Speaker: Audience members at Mumbai’s Kashish Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; Mahesh Dattani, Indian playwright; Abheena, who represents Mumbai’s transgender community; Ashok Row Kavi, leading gay rights

FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER: I really love films and I also want to support the whole community by coming here and I really want to find out what these movies are all about.

CUNNINGHAM: Inside a glitzy western style multiplex cinema, away from the dusty, busy streets of India’s entertainment capital, the country’s first mainstream gay film festival gets inaugurated, in traditional style, with the lighting of candles. But this is about as traditional as it gets. Everything else is groundbreaking. For many attending this festival, like Mahesh Dattani an Indian playwright, it’s a step forward and recognition for the country’s gay community.

MAHESH DATTANI: I think this a hugely important event, we’ve never had a queer film festival. I think there’s so many myths and misnomers about queerness, about sexuality in general and I think this gives the audience an opportunity to try and understand and to actually see for themselves what queer love is and what queerness is about.

CUNNINGHAM: It’s the first time in India that more than 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-sexual based films, from 25 countries, including Australia, the UK, France and Israel have got past the censors to be shown in a public cinema alongside mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood releases. But for Mahesh it’s not just about simply watching the films, it’s about creating openness towards people’s sexuality in India.

MAHESH DATTANI: We’re such a traditional society of celebrators, we celebrate life, we celebrate sexuality, for goodness sake, I mean we wrote the Kama Sutra you know and I feel it’s time we reclaimed our culture to somehow revisit our openness that somehow we’ve lost over the ages.

CUNNINGHAM: Last year Delhi’s high court passed a historic ruling – section 377, a law in place since the British era, making gay sex illegal, was now deemed discriminatory. For India this was a radical move. Nearly one year on and some feel it’s made life easier, and the time is right for such a film festival.

SAURABH MASURKAR: I’m Saurabh Masurkar, I’m 18 years old I’m an artist. After the 377 happened, this actually came into the limelight, and since then I think we’re just moving forward. As of now I think there’s no looking back.

CUNNINGHAM: Mumbai is India’s most cosmopolitan and liberal city, but outside this financial and entertainment capital the country largely remains a conservative society and attitudes are hard to change, but Saurabh believes this film festival can make a difference.

SAURABH MASURKAR: These kind of film festivals are a slap on homophobic faces really and if this wouldn’t really help them to accept it, at least it will leave them no choice to decline or deny it, because, it will be spoken all around, so what are they going to deny about it.

CUNNINGHAM: As the festival gets underway three young girls sneak in past the popcorn stands. One tells me she’s straight, the other bisexual and another gay . They’ve come here without their parent’s knowledge, because they’ve not come out to them yet.

FEMALE: It helps me to you know come out here and meet people and see that there are other people over here who think like me, feel like me and I think that it’s amazing that this is happening.

FEMALE 2: People are influenced by films anyway so when they watch these movies I’m sure other people who are in the closet about these things will like be you know a little more empowered and stuff, will feel like coming out into the open about these things, wouldn’t feel shy.

CUNNINGHAM: What makes this festival different is that it’s also concentrating on transgender issues. Here in India transgenders, also known as Hijaras are often seen by society as the lowest of the low.

ABHEENA: My name is Abheena and I represent the transgender community. I’m also a part of the organizing team of Kashish.Last week I’ve not been given an admission in a unisexual gym, because they thought they wouldn’t be able to control the discrimation against me in the gym. These things we are encountering on a daily basis, even if I have money I can’t access the service just because of my gender. These are the films that talk about the various issues of gender and sexuality and it gives and opportunity and a platform for the general people to come and understand us rather than be afraid of.

CUNNINGHAM: Sitting quietly in a corner of the cinema lobby Ashok Row Kavi, a leading gay rights activist here in Mumbai is smiling, he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing after his years of campaigning.

ASHOK ROW KAVI: I think India is such an incredible rainbow society of diversity� that’s what makes it so fabulous that we are now also adding our own colour to this.

CUNNINGHAM: Organisers say the festival is already over subscribed for the four days it’s on and hope that Kashish will be the first of many gay film festivals in India.

Indian film festival promotes gay rights: ABC News

April 26, 2010 1 comment

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/

Read Online

By India correspondent Anna Cunningham

Mumbai has wrapped up India’s largest gay film festival, seen as a step forward for gay rights in the country.

It is the first time in India that more than 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual-themed films have got past censors to be shown in public cinemas alongside mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood releases.

The films came from 25 countries including Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Israel.

For many attending the Kahish festival, including Indian playwright Mahesh Dattani, it is a step forward in recognition for the country’s gay community.

“I think this is a hugely important event. We’ve never had a queer film festival,” he told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia program.

“I think there’s so many myths and misnomers about queerness, about sexuality in general, and I think this gives the audience an opportunity to try and understand and to actually see for themselves what queer love is and what queerness is about.”

Mumbai is India’s most cosmopolitan and liberal city, but outside the financial and entertainment capital the country’s society remains largely conservative and attitudes are hard to change.

Last year Delhi’s high court passed a ruling that the British-era law under section 377, making gay sex illegal, had become discriminatory

Artist Saurabh Masurkar says the ruling has brought gay issues into the limelight, something the festival is continuing.

“These kinds of film festivals are a slap in homophobic faces,” he said.

“If this wouldn’t really help them to accept it, at least it will leave them no choice to decline or deny it, because it will be spoken all around.”  The festival also highlighted the issues of transgender Indians, known as Hijaras, who are often seen by society as the lowest of the low.