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by Editorial Desk May 18 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 2 mins, 51 secs

Filmmakers from Karnataka, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat at KASHISH 2024. Jeo Baby, Rohit Prajapati, Kling Johnson, Priyakanta Laishram, Dishaa Bhardwaj spoke to Ashish Sawhny: #Newsdesk.

The 15th edition of KASHISH Film Festival 2024 had its first Panel Discussion session on “LGBTQIA+ Narratives in Regional Cinema”. Panel coordinator Juhi Rajpal introduced the theme of the panel discussion, which intended to focus the conversation around inclusion of queer narratives across regional language films in states of Karnataka, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and more.

The moderator of the evening began with a quote of the Oscar winning Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

This led to the first question for the panellists of how essential is the role of a particular language to retain the authenticity of their characters and worlds.

“Language, and culture is very important, that's how characters are made better and understood too. Subtitles are a barrier for me. Since my film “Kaathal The Core” was situated in Kothad, Kochi, my hometown, it became important to fine tune the screenplay accordingly,” said filmmaker Jeo Baby.

Filmmaker Priyankanta talked about the experience of making “Oneness”, in his native language, which helped the audience to connect better. He said, “English is not popular in Manipur. While growing up there were no queer films, so I felt the need to make queer films in my language. Many Hindi films are banned in Manipur, and people still watch more commercial films instead of parallel cinema, so the audience for films like “Priyankanta” is less”.

When asked about placing their films among the regional cinema audiences, which is understood to be conservative towards queer content, the panellists made some interesting points.

Rohit Prajapati, director of “Kaatla Curry”, which is based in Gujarat had passionate love making scenes, and the filmmaker wasn’t hesitant to say, “This form is not for the regional audience, but holds a mirror to a conservative society”. Rohit focused on the original language, culture and local dialects to present the story authentically.

This also brought the moderator to ask about the process of casting for the respective films.

“Having stars like Mammootty and Jyotika for the film worked in our favour,” said Jeo Baby. “Having commercial stars to play a queer character on screen helped the film to reach a wider audience”, he added.

While for Dishaa Bhardwaj’s film “Chupi Roh” having locals as actors for her film brought the rawness and relatability factor, which made the storytelling even more honest.

The whole debate of casting queer actors or non-queer actors to play queer roles on screen was also a question asked by Ashish. Sensitization workshops with actors helped the filmmakers to understand the comfort level of their leads, as well as to learn to tackle tough situations where the actor isn’t ready to do a particular scene. “It is a sin in Karnataka to show men kissing on screen, I kept it very less for the actors’ comfort,” explained Kling Johnson director of “Dvandva”.

The session came to a close with questions from the audience and the panellists were later felicitated for their participation in the evening’s conversation.

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