film festivals

Kashish queer festival celebrates diversity and the hope for a more inclusive world

The festival, which runs from May 24-28 in Mumbai, includes the Indian entries ‘Loev’, ‘Sisak’ and ‘Harikatha Prasanga’.

The Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is back for an eighth round of rarely seen LGBT cinema from India and the rest of the world. The theme for this year’s edition is “Diverse, One”. At least 147 films, shorts and documentaries will be screened between May 24 and 28 in Mumbai.

Founded in 2010 by filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, Kashish is the only mainstream queer festival of its kind in India. Around 43 movies will compete in eight categories for a cash award of Rs 2.2 lakh.

American filmmaker Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move, starring Shabana Azmi, will open the festival. Azmi plays a recently widowed Pakistani mother to an aspiring lesbian wrestler (Fawzia Mirza).

Among the Indian premieres is Faraz Arif Ansari’s Sisak, a silent film about the sparks that fly between two men who travel by the same Mumbai local train every night. The film bagged the audience award (short film) at Boston’s Wicked Queer LGBTQ festival.

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Sisak.

In Sudhanshu Saria’s Loev, two childhood friends (played by Dhruv Ganesh and Shiv Pandit) come to terms with the complexities of their relationship during a weekend getaway. The film had its world premiere at Estonia’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and has been added to the Netflix catalogue.

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Loev.

Velutha Rathrikal is Razi Muhammed’s queer-themed twist on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel White Nights. Set in a remote village in Kerala, the film explores the relationship that a troubled Adivasi woman shares with a man and another woman.

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Velutha Rathrikal.

The Kannada film Harikatha Prasanga is about Hari, a Yakshagana actor who performs female roles. The 105-minute movie is Ananya Kasaravalli’s directorial debut. Tanuj Bhramar’s Dear Dad, starring Tamil actor Arvind Swamy, will also be screened at the festival.

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Harikatha Prasanga.

Apart from Indian entries, the programme includes features and shorts from Armenia, Nigeria, Kosovo, Rwanda, Trinidad and the United Arab Emirates. Armenian entry Apricot Groves explores the life of a young Iranian Armenian trans-man living in the US who returns to his homeland to meet his girlfriend’s family.

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Apricot Groves.

More Raca’s short film Home is about a lesbian chef in Kosovo who is forced to marry a man just so that she can inherit her deceased parents’ property. The 24-minute Albanian short is Raca’s second film after Amel (2014).

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Home.

Set in Iran, Abdulla Al Kaabi’s Only Men Go To The Grave follows the unveiling of an Iranian household’s secret during a family member’s funeral. The feature film is the only UAE entry.

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Only Men Go To The Grave.

In Flavio R Tambellini’s Gloria and Grace, a dying mother reaches out to her estranged brother to take care of her children, only to find out that he has now become a woman.

Gloria and Grace.
Gloria and Grace.

Besides the narrative features, the festival also offers a range of student films that will compete for the Best Student Short Film award. In Kat Michaelides’s animated short Lethe, two women discover a mystifying pool of water that changes their life. Alexandrina Andre’s Flora is about the coming out of the titular transgender woman to her family.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.