Bringing South Asia’s queer film festival to London
I caught up with the Unicorn Nights team for a behind-the-scenes look at the event.
Why are you doing the screening?
To support the South Asian queer filmmakers who face insurmountable odds and risk in bringing these stories to the screens. Many of these works have been produced in Article 377 India that outlawed same sex acts. These works have been created as a part of activism and at times to build bridges between the queer community and our allies. Our teams at Unicorn nights and Lotus Visual strongly believe in potential of the cinema to bring about social discourse and change. We are hence collaborating in this cause. We do have lot of exciting events planned on similar lines. We encourage you follow us on social media for more details.
How did you choose the films?
Unicorn Nights has run for over three years, screening LGBTQ+ films at the Prince Charles Cinema, and have always had a remit to diversity and inclusion. Lotus Visual has been supporting production and promotion of Queer south Asian cinema for the past five years. So, working with Kashish was a wonderful way to ensure we can reach quality films from a very underrepresented area and give them an opportunity to be seen in London’s queer cinema-scape.
As part of this Best of KASHISH package, we’ve put together six wonderfully diverse and sensitive Indian LGBTQ shorts. These are award winning, critically acclaimed, or audience favourites from several editions of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival.
What about the venue?
Finding a cinema in central London can be costly. As we wanted to ensure all the profits were passed on to the filmmakers to encourage their creativity, we knew we had to think outside the box. We also wanted the filmmakers to feel proud that their work was being screened at a central venue. Piano Works West End were generous to offer us their venue in the heart of Leicester Square that was central and chic to help us meet both our objectives. The trendy interiors and excellent acoustics will offer a wholesome experience to the our patrons. Whilst offering a great environment to socialise!
Tell me about the films.
AJAY. Dir: Vikrant Dhote. 20 min / 2018 / Marathi, Hindi, English.
After a young boy commits suicide, an NGO decides to investigate the matter by interviewing the people connected to his death. These are excerpts from their archives.
WINNER Best Indian Narrative Short Award at 9th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2018
PHYSICALITY ( Uttar Thaguthi ) Dir: V. Ramanathan. 18 min / 2017 / India / Tamil with English subtitles.
Krithika and Shireen are friends who strive for societal recognition of their preferred and lived gender. Shireen drives a taxi to support herself and nurses a dream to be a popular theater actress while Krithika is focused in her ambition to become a police officer. Soon both of them realise that the society and people around them can’t think beyond the physicality of being a male and female.
Produced by KASHISH Arts Foundation under its QDrishti Film Grant 2016
SUNDAR. Dir: Rohan Kanawade. 27 min / 2015 / India / Marathi
On the last day of Navaratri, Jayu sits in the house listening to the sounds that makes him restless each moment. With each beat of the dandiya music playing in distance, Jayu’s urge to dress-up and play dandiya is rising to the peak but he stifles it. His heart sinks as he sees girls dolled up for the night. Everyone is heading to the ground to play dandiya. Jayu too longs to go, but he’s not allowed!
WINNER Best Indian Narrative Short award at 6th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, 2015
GODDESS ( Devi ) Dir: Karishma Dube. 13 min / 2016 / India / Bengali, English, Hindi with English subtitles
Set in New Delhi, the narrative follows Tara, a feisty teenager dealing with the realities of being queer in contemporary India. When caught pursuing her attraction towards her household maid, she must suddenly define who she really is amidst severely classist and homophobic society.
PASHI. Dir: Siddharth Chauhan. 32 min / 2017 / India / Hindi, Pahari
A young boy learns about a technique of trapping birds from his old grandmother and starts practising it.
WINNER Q Drishti Film Grant Winner AND Best Performance in a Lead Role at 9th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2018. 7 International Awards including Best Director, Best Film, Best Actor, Best Cinematography and Audience Choice Award at festivals across the globe.
THE FISH CURRY ( Maacher Jhol ). Dir: Abhishek Verma. 12 min / 2017 / India / Hindi with English subtitles.
Lalit Ghosh, 28, decides to come-out to his parents. He is in love with a man, his room-mate, Ashutosh Gautam. He cooks his father’s favourite dish, the traditional fish curry (Maacher Jhol) with great effort. He serves it to his father and confronts his sexuality over the dinner table. Will Lalit’s dad love the delicious fish curry?
WINNER Best Indian Narrative Short Award at 8th KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. National Award for Best Animation in 2018 India. City of Annecy Award 2017.
Is this with Kashish in Mumbai?
Yes Indeed. The screening has been facilitated by KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival that is South Asia biggest queer Film Festival celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year. This initiative called ‘Best of KASHISH’ has facilitated screenings at more than 45 International film festivals and screenings in several countries.
It is Ramadan. Has the screening been scheduled at 4 for a reason?
Venue availability was the main consideration for the time slot and yes we do finish before so that those observing Ramadan can manage to break their fast on time.
Why is it important for British audiences to see such films?
The South Asian cultural tapestry is interwoven with shades of linguistic, religious, classist, caste related complexities. Adding a queer dimension to this produces situations and stories that are rather unique to this part of world. Audiences in the West need to realise that south Asian cinema is not synonymous with the commercial glitzy fare churned out by Bollywood and that there are independent film makers willing to risk it all to bring these nuanced stories to the screen. Many of these film makers often lack resources, know how or support to promote these films in the international arena, hence a little encouragement from British/western audiences can make a big difference in supporting these film makers.