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Kashish QDrishti film grant for Assamese story about middle-aged trans person

Actress Renuka Shahane, who was on the jury for the grant, offered Rs50,000 each to the other four shortlisted scripts.

Our Correspondent

The 12th edition of the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival ended on 5 September after 12 days of film screenings, panel discussions and Q&As with filmmakers.

The online closing ceremony of the festival featured the announcement of awards in nine categories, including the announcement of the winner of the Kashish QDrishti film grant, where a filmmaker receives Rs2,00,000 to make their next film. The prize money is sponsored by Lotus Visual Productions.

The Kashish QDrishti film grant has been supporting filmmakers to make their LGBTQIA+ films for the past six years, as an attempt to nurture queer content and aid in its production. In 2021, the call for script submission was open only to Indian filmmakers who identified as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Of the dozen scripts received from LGBTQIA+ filmmakers based in India, five were shortlisted by a pre-jury panel. These scripts were then pitched by the filmmakers at an online pitch session to the jury members who selected the winner based not only on the strength of the script, but also on the director’s vision for and mission of the project.

The Caress by Bhargav Lahkar was declared the winner of the grant. The story of a middle-aged trans person who crosses paths with a past lover, the plot of The Caress focuses on healing the resentment between them and freeing them from regrets.

Delighted at winning the grant, filmmaker Bhargav Lahkar said, “I am so grateful that my story and screenplay has been able to meet the expectations of the jury members, and I am thrilled that my story has been able to capture their minds. I hope that after this film is made, it will capture everyone’s hearts as well. And through this film queer love stories will be heard. I am so looking forward to making this film with all my efforts. Thank you so much!”

Lahkar’s documentary short Towards Hope was screened at this year’s festival.

The other shortlisted scripts were Aaj Chandni Ki Nagri Mein by Soumyajit Ghosh Dastidar, Baby Dyke by Sonal Giani, Sifr by Jasleen Kaur and Thumkaa by Abhaysingh Kalbhor.

Actress and director Renuka Shahane, who was on the jury, offered Rs50,000 each to the other four shortlisted filmmakers to make their films and realize their dreams.

“It was an honour and a great pleasure to be on the Kashish QDrishti film grant jury," Shahane said. "The five stories pitched to us were diverse, rich and unique in their representation of particular aspects of the LGBTQIA+ world experience. The jury discussions were also very enriching, where the final decision was made with a lot of considered deliberation and mutual respect among us. I am really thankful to all the writers and directors from the LGBTQIA+ community who have delved into their personal experiences to share a part of themselves with us.”

Sridhar Rangayan, festival director, said, “We are thrilled about the quality of submissions this year by LGBTQIA+ filmmakers who have sent in such beautiful stories that offer an insider’s perspective to the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ persons. We are highly obliged to Lotus Visual Productions for offering this grant, and super delighted that Renuka Shahane has chipped in with money to support production of the other four shortlisted scripts. It is time to rejoice, and my heart is filled with pride.”

The winner of the Kashish QDrishti film grant will be mentored by senior screenwriters and provided other technical resources to complete the film, which will have its world premiere at next year's Kashish queer festival.

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Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival