My KASHISH Experience

Saniya Shaikh

1 June 2017

My favourite thing about festivals is how certain times of the year become identifiable with them. In the weeks leading up to Christmas I feel a certain mood that just feels like Christmas. In May, I feel the exact the same way about KASHISH, South Asia’s largest queer film festival. The festive spirit takes over everyone, and I block my calendar for those five days that are full of spectacular films, crowded lanes near Liberty Cinema, fabulous outfits, breakfasts at Kamat’s, new friendships and heartwarming solidarity.

I’ve been attending KASHISH for the last three years and each year has been so starkly different from the other! I remember my first KASHISH where I had worked for three weeks with no breaks at the museum I was interning at, just so I could save up my holidays for the festival. Segue to this year, where I attended the KASHISH opening night with my entire team! Godrej and KASHISH have a longstanding association, with the festival marking one of our many steps in celebrating queer diversity. This year, we were one of the principal partners of the festival and it is a matter of great pride for me to belong to a company that is creating a culture of inclusion, not only at our workplace but also in society at large. In case you want to know more about what Godrej is doing to be inclusive, click here. In fact the festival played a snippet of this film between movies. 

The KASHISH 2017 opening night saw some of the most inspiring speeches and spectacular performances. It was incredible to see Nisaba Godrej, Executive Chairperson, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd., go up on the stage and speak about the irrelevance of Section 377 today. Lab head Parmesh, who has been my inspiration ever since I picked up his book Gay Bombay at my college library, spoke powerfully about how the idea of queerness and inclusivity is inherently Swadesi and highlighted the importance and urgency of being an ally and speaking up for the community.  


Even though our Culture Lab team is made up only of five people, our family is huge. Every year, the KASHISH opening night becomes a family reunion of sorts. It was amazing to watch Ankur Ballal, who was a part of our Lavani LIVE! festival, perform at the opening ceremony. His troupe had dancers who were hearing impaired, but that didn’t come in the way of their spectacular performance that was a poignant reflection of life under Section 377. It was one of the most powerful artistic expressions of queer life in India. It is always a delight to watch Sushant Divgikar perform and like always, he had the crowd swaying to his beats while he slayed on stage.

The evening also featured some of the most inspiring stories of LGBTQ stalwarts from across the world and Canadian Inuk activist Mona Belleau's speech in particular touched many hearts including mine. 

What makes KASHISH special for me? It is the festival itself. This year it showcased 147 films that are curated for the city and South Asia at large. It explored so many emotions, ideas and cultures in those five days of programming. My personal favourite this year was Maacher Jhol by Abhishek Verma. I end my blog with a big thank you to the festival team made up of Sridhar, Shibu, Saagar and Pearl for their dedication and passion which transpires into the making of this beautiful experience. As I make my attempts to recover from KASHISH withdrawal, I can’t help but look forward to KASHISH 2018 already!