Identity Keepers

Identity Keepers

Sridhar Rangayan:Sridhar Rangayan, festival director and founder of Kashish, on the recent edition of the queer film festival, being inclusive, and opening up discussions on sexuality

When the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival began in 2010, it got 200 submissions. That number grew to over 1,200 this year. In an interview, Sridhar Rangayan spoke on shaping the mainstream narrative about the LGBTQ community, addressing patriarchy and catering to a mature audience.


With 145 screenings, the recently concluded edition of the festival, which had Arjun Kapoor inaugurate it, was bigger than previous years. Has Kashish arrived on the festival scene?

Even when we held the first edition of the festival in 2010, we wanted it to be mainstream and not ghettoise it for the LGBTQ community. No one should feel excluded. I remember when we screened Gulabi Aaina, people had anxiety about being tagged and labelled when they came for the screenings. I think Kashish has turned out to be a great leveller. We don’t question your identity, if you want to reveal it, great, if not, that’s also fine. This year, we roped in Liberty cinema, and used Bookmyshow, so that people could see a Kashish listing next to Baahubali and a Justin Beiber concert. So yes, Kashish has arrived and is here to stay.

Did you have apprehensions about organising it?

Kashish is seen as a vibrant cultural platform. Things have become difficult, but I still think India is very tolerant and democratic. After the Supreme Court’s reversal in 2013 of the Delhi High Court’s verdict on Section 377, we had some major sponsors who went back to the closet, as they found it very challenging to support us in public. But we still had some who stood by us. But apart from that, it’s the usual business of running a festival.

How do you think the festival has evolved?

Initially we got those typical angst-ridden films where one’s sexual identity was a recurring theme. Buff bodies, good-looking people set in the rom-com premise were a given. But this year’s winner for the best short narrative film was a hand-drawn Hindi 2D animation film, Macher Jhol. We also had a supernatural thriller last year, and a love story between an Israeli and a Palestinian. But, this is a give-and-take with the audience. They have also matured and expect good cinema.

Often gay characters in mainstream Hindi cinema are there just for comic relief. Do you think that is changing?

Well, we have a long way to go. We are miles away from Carol or Brokeback Mountain. But all this can be traced to the prevalence of Section 377, censorship and patriarchy. We need to address patriarchy to change our attitudes about sexuality. We need the academia to step in, and write books that will change this attitude. Unless we speak about it in schools and colleges, parents won’t speak about it, and it will remain in the closet.

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