Yesterday, Mumbai saw the curtains come down on Kashish, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) film festival, which ran through the end of last week, at two venues in the city Alliance Francaise de Bombay and Liberty Theatre, Marine Lines.
The latter venue made the festival truly historic. For the first time, this fest seemed to have catapulted into a mainstream, highly visible space. The Liberty may have lost its sheen from the older days, as it is now a single-screen theatre in an age of multiplexes.
Yet, its sheer grandeur cannot be disputed. The iconic structure itself, the stunning decor inside, the sweep of its staircase, the shouting red of the foyer, and most of all, the number of seats which could accommodate many more persons than previously make it a winner for the film fest.
At a time when the Supreme Court has effectively reinstated Section 377, criminalising consensual sex between same sex adults, the Liberty shone like a beacon in the community’s dark days.
Through all the celebration that the fest brought with it, it was impossible, however, to miss the frisson of fear that seems to still run through the community. The BJP has always been vocal in its opposition to homosexuality.
Festivals like this must go on and Kashish, which has completed 5 years in Mumbai, must be able to continue, simply because it is such a showcase, not just for the community but for liberalism, freedom, debate and culture.
Some kind of restriction is already in place, with the censor board pulling the plug on a smooch scene in a commercial film. It is up to the BJP to prove critics wrong. The closed, restrictive, dictatorial image was with them through the campaign and they still won.
It is now for the saffron party to give credence to their refrain that the minorities, religious or sexual, have nothing to fear. Let nothing shackle or stop LGBT film festivals. Let’s hope that Liberty is not just the brick and mortar of a stately old building, but the cornerstone of the ruling party’s philosophy.