Sridhar Rangayan, filmmaker, gay rights activist and director of the ongoing KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, is glad that LGBT is a subject “out of the closet”, but he hopes the country’s mainstream cinema understands “LGBT persons are part of the social mainstream” too.
“I think LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) is a subject that is definitely out of the closet, especially since the 2009 Delhi High Court verdict – you read about it, you see people around who are open about their sexuality and want to live their life with dignity,” Rangayan told IANS in an email interaction from Mumbai.
“There is definitely no going back for the LGBT community, and that holds good for KASHISH too,” he added.
Rangayan is also positive that the new government will pose no hindrance to the the future editions of the fest.
“Our festival is conducted with all due permissions. We have the patronage of eminent personalities like Shyam Benegal, Dolly Thakore, Celina Jaitly and Wendell Rodricks who are consistently championing for the festival because they understand the basic human rights issues it advocates for,” he said.
The going wasn’t easy for Rangayan when the idea to have the fest was conceptualised.
“The first year was of course a tough challenge, convincing a mainstream multiplex theatre to come on board as venue partners. There were concerns about what will be the reaction of the general public to a film festival like this.
“But what convinced everyone across the board was the fact that we were organising the event with due permissions that every film festival in India is expected to procure – like the Information and Broadcasting Ministry clearance,” he added.
The fifth editiion of the film festival kickstarted in Mumbai Wednesday, and it offers patrons a chance to sample as many as 154 films from 31 countries, including those from Bangladesh, Britain, Spain and India.
Rangayan has witnessed a “remarkable increase” in the number of films from India submitted to the fest.
“From 22 in 2010 to almost 60 this year! We are screening about 30 Indian films this year which include shorts, documentaries and features. That is an amazing collection indeed,” said the filmmaker, whose own short film on transsexuality, “Gulabi Aaina”, made in 2003, remains banned in the country.
He says most films dealing with LGBT are “made on shoestring budgets and do not have the marketing muscle to secure distribution”. The fact that “most of them are shorts and documentaries or independent films” keep them away from theatres.
But Rangayan, who also made films like “Yours Emotionally” and “68 Pages”, believes there’s a “need to find alternate ways of reaching them out to audiences”.
In the past decade, mainstream Hindi filmmakers have brought gay and transgender issues to the fore via films like “My Brother Nikhil”, “I Am”, “Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun”, as well through sub-plots in entertainers like “Kal Ho Naa Ho”, “Girlfriend”, “Kalyug”, “Page 3”, “Fashion” and “Dostana”.
Asked about his take on the portrayal of the subject, Rangayan however said: “Mainstream cinema has to mature and evolve while dealing with subjects that have not been dealt with widely.
“They should understand that LGBT persons are as much part of the social mainstream and their portrayals need to be accorded the same respect and dignity as other characters.
“There is a need for the film industry to understand that not only are they an industry that sells entertainment; they also have a social responsibility.”