“There is a lot of interest in watching good LGBTQ cinema, even among mainstream audiences,” says Sridhar Rangayan, Festival Director, Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. It has been eight years since the festival dedicated to LGBTQ cinema and its popularity, much like the number of participating countries and film entries, sees a remarkable growth with every passing year. Kashish has grown from being just an LGBT film festival to a ‘much – awaited cultural event’ that cinema buffs eagerly look forward to. The credit of which goes to the well – curated and diverse range of films that Rangayan and his team put together.

As the latest edition of the fest readies to open its doors on May 24, we speak to Rangayan to know more about Kashish 2017 – it’s theme of ‘Diverse, One’, the new countries that have sent in their films, the changes witnessed over the years and most importantly, how the festival despite the amazing response it receives, still struggles with funding and sponsorship.

Sridhar Rangayan

Sridhar Rangayan

In its 8th successful year, what are the new aspects that one can look forward to at Kashish? Any areas that you’ll have especially focused on?

This year audiences coming to KASHISH can enjoy a diverse bouquet of cultural experience – film screenings, to performances, to panel discussions, launches, to meeting amazing filmmakers and guests, the festival offers an all round cultural experience. The range of films this year is both eclectic and diverse, not only in content but also in the approach to filmmaking. From a silent film to a musical to animation to experimental films, the audience will be able to soak in an unforgettable experience on the big screen.

Being South Asia’s biggest LGBTQ film festival, this year there is a concerted attempt to bring more films from South Asia and Asia-Pacific to the festival. We will be screening a program of Asia Pacific Queer short films from Myanmar, China, Taiwan and Australia.

What are the changes and growth that you have witnessed in the festival over the years?

The festival has grown both in strength and stature. When we started the festival in 2010, it was a 125 seater theater. Next year we moved to a 235 seater theater and now we are at Liberty Cinema with 1000+ seats! And the festival pretty much gets a housefull on opening, closing and many key films. That shows the hunger among audiences for good cinema focused on LGBT theme, as well as being part of an amazing LGBTQ pride event. The audience interest in KASHISH is growing too with increased attendance every year. What is heartening is that more than 30% of audience is non-LGBT, so there is a lot of interest in watching good LGBTQ cinema, even among mainstream audiences.

KASHISH is now not seen as just a LGBT film festival, but an annual cultural event of repute in Mumbai.

Sridhar Rangayan (Second from Right) with actor Siddharth Menon and jury membersVinita Nanda, Anjum Rajabali, Lubna Salim, Jabeen Merchant

Could you throw some light on the theme of this year “Diverse,One”. How did you’ll zero in on this theme and what does it signify?

It signifies diversity in terms of LGBTQ identities and straight allies, but also diversity in terms of racial diversity, and diversity of ability/ disability. We are screening films that highlight the need for acceptance of diversity in all its forms, color and gender. We are also running a photo contest in collaboration with QGraphy with the theme Diverse, One. We hope to have an exhibition of the winning entries at the festival. So it is also diversity of all art forms at KASHISH.

You’ll have received over 1200 entries this year, what are the factors the programming team keeps in mind while shortlisting the entries?

We have an eminent preview team of filmmakers, actors, media professionals and persons from the LGBTQ community who make decisions of selection alongwith Saagar Gupta, Director of Programming. It has been a very tough job indeed for them this year to shortlist 147 films from 1200+ entries. The team keeps in mind not only the technical quality of the films and how the film touches your heart with its story, but also the issues and concerns that the film highlights. Especially if a film is from a country where LGBTQ people are criminalized by law or marginalized by society, even though the film is not made with great technical finesse, it is telling a very brave story. That scores brownie points. While we are happy that our festival has reached the international stature where it attracts so many entries from all over the world, we also feel a tad sad that we cannot program all the amazing films in the four days at two venues.

We should probably expand KASHISH to a full week!

Which are the new countries that have sent in their films this year?

This year we are very privileged to receive films from countries that are making their debut at KASHISH 2017. Some of the new countries are Armenia, Nigeria, Kosovo, Rwanda, UAE, Trinidad & Tobago and Aruba! We also have films from Ukraine, Cuba, Georgia, Iran, Serbia, Slovenia, etc. and that speaks volumes of the reach of KASHISH in bringing not only films from established countries like USA, UK, Australia, Germany, etc but covering regions that do not have much of a LGBTQ voice.

We are proud to be flying the flag of 45 countries at KASHISH this year!

A still from German film ‘Jonathan’ that will be screened at Kashish 2017

Having successfully organized the festival for eight years in a row now, why do you’ll still opt for the crowdfunding route?

With the current scenario for LGBT rights, which still remains unresolved at the courts and in the parliament, it is still a huge challenge to organize an LGBTQ event of this scale. While we have a few companies like VIP, Godrej and IBM, and consulates of Canada, France and USA supporting us, raising enough money to manage the festival is a tough task. This year we are heartened that both VIP and Godrej are collaborating with us to promote their products – Skybags and BBlunt respectively! But we have not been successful in bringing other brands into the fold. I am sure there is willingness among many companies, but the barriers they face with their legal team and management is perhaps a challenge.

If we have the financial resources, we can bring an even more amazing event that India would be proud of. We want to call upon all companies and brands to come forward to support us.

One message that you would like to give the readers about Kashish 2017

Register yourself to attend KASHISH today, if you haven’t already done so, on BookMyShow: https://in.bookmyshow.com/festival/mumbai-international-queer-film-festival

It will be an experience of a lifetime, we assure you that!