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KASHISH 2024: Filmmakers discuss language barriers to tell LQBTQ stories in regional cinema

KASHISH 2024: Filmmakers discuss language barriers to tell LQBTQ stories in regional cinema

| @indiablooms | 17 May 2024, 03:07 pm

Language and culture play an important role in films and those centred around LGBTQ issues are no exception, said filmmaker Jeo Baby whose recent critically acclaimed Malayam film "Kaathal The Core" starring top mainstream actors explored the difficult lives of women married to gay men.

Speaking at the 15th edition of KASHISH Film Festival 2024  in a panel discussion on “LGBTQIA+ Narratives in Regional Cinema”, he said: “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 is being situated in Kothad, Kochi my hometown, it became important to fine tune the screenplay accordingly,” said  Jeo Baby whose 2023 film is a courtroom drama where actor Mammootty plays an introverted gay man in a Kerala small town who is fighting an election when his wife (played by Jyotika) decides to file for divorce to end her suffering for 20 years of their married life.

Besides Jeo Baby, other panelists in the discussion were Rohit Prajapati, Kling Johnson, Priyakanta Laishram, Disha Bhardwaj and moderator Ashish Sawhny.

Panel coordinator Juhi Rajpal introduced the theme of the panel discussion which intended to focus the conversations 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.

Filmmaker Priyankanta from Manipur talked about his experience of making his film Oneness, in his native language which helped the audience to connect better.

“English is not popular in Manipur. While growing up there were no queer films and so I felt the need to make queer films in my language,” he said. 

Many Hindi films are being banned in Manipur, but people still watch commercial films instead of parallel cinema and so the audience for films like Priyankanta’s are less.

When asked about placing their films amongst the regional cinema audiences, which is understood to be conservative towards queer content, the panelists 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 that “this film is not made for the regional audience, but holds a mirror to the 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 Mammoothy 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.

For Disha Bhardwaj’s film Chupi Roh, having locals as actors for her film brought the rawness and relatability factor, which made the storytelling part even more honest according to her.

The whole debate of casting queer actors or non-queer actors to play queer roles on screen was also a question brought in by moderator Ashish Sawhny.

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 Dvamdva.

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

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