BQFF Diaries: Days Two & Three – 10/3/18 & 11/3/18

4:20 PM:

Missed Portrait of Jason. The auditorium is full of heads bobbing, nodding, and laughing so I hang out at the stairs for a bit. At 5:45 there’s some room, so I squeeze in next to two women who smile as they make place for me. My toe pokes the big man’s bum in front of me but he either doesn’t care or doesn’t mind but I hug my toe and protect his bum from it for the rest of the evening.

Ladies & Gentlewomen by Malini Jeevarathnam begins, and I am not prepared for the heart fail I’m going to have in the next hour. When Joshua Muyiwa introduces it, he says the director intended the documentary to be watched by Indian parents.

The first couple of scenes show a woman with a mic asking random strangers in Chennai if they know what a lesbian is. ‘Ayaaayoo venda pa, no comments’, says a woman who giggles and walks away. ‘Yenna ma, dustbin ah?’ says an uncle on his scooter. The audience erupts in a little volcanoes of laugh. Next to me the woman says what’s wrong with these people why are they laughing?

As the documentary takes us through activists, lesbian couples, and bisexual men – there’s a parallel story of a mythological couple – an upper caste woman and a lower caste woman both in love with each other. They are found out, separated, and ostracised. When they can no longer bear it, they run away and meet each other. They spend some time together before setting themselves on fire and jumping into the well.

I am saddened by their suicide but I cannot stop thinking about how these women held each other – eyes full of love, hands full of trust.

silverscree in
Image Credits: silverscreen.in

Lesbian relationships are just meant to be. That’s all. It’s the only way that women’s bodies can learn to trust again. But that’s not all. It’s fulfilling in a way that nothing is. Maybe this is my fascination with Ferrante. There’s so much secrecy and violence but there’s also so much love between Lenu-Lila.

I long to walk the streets of Bangalore with a woman in my arms, or I in hers. How will I do it in Basavanagudi? I can. The cows don’t mind as long as there are enough roads for them to plod on. And my suspicion is that all the ajjis here are closeted lesbians anyway. So we are basically full of lesbians and cows – just like the rest of the world.

A woman in a yellow kurta smiles into the camera as she says that there’s no space for a man in a lesbian relationship and that’s the best thing about it.

Smiles. Hearts. Giggles. A lot of women nod loudly.

The other couples in the documentary inspire similar feelings and by the end of the documentary – I am full of joy but am unable to understand why I’m also a little sad.

A middle-aged bisexual man says – ‘Just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean I’ll say yes to sex to whoever asks me. See, this is the misconception. Queer people aren’t with each other only for sex. Like heterosexual relationships, they are also about eating, sleeping, walking, and doing other things together.’

The first thing that Malini Jeevarathnam says when she takes stage amidst the roar of cheers and applause – is ‘I don’t know English’

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The applause grows louder and some people from behind me scream ‘It’s okayyy’

“I am happy and full of tears”, she says. And the audience says – ‘us too’

It’s the only way to feel after you’ve watched this documentary. So much so that my stomach craved love so I went up to the café, drank wine and stuffed my face with potatoes.

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Sounds – On screen – the crackling of fire as the many couples jump to their deaths, the sound of waves as lovers walk hand-in-hand by the sea.

Off Screen – applause, hoots, cheers from the audience. The sound of my heart breaking into millions of pieces. The tch tches I imagine my father would produce if he were in the auditorium.

***

Ein Weg (Paths) – German, Directed by Chris Miera

The mattresses are mostly empty so I plonk my bum right in between – head is dizzy with wine.

I begin watching and am surprised by my focus on the faces of the two men on screen – Andreas and Martin. I watch as they scratch their noses, and hold their chins when they skype with each other. I am soon obsessed with the closed windows of the house. I see that it opens just the one time in the film – when they both fight and one of them leaves and the other puts his head out the window and begs him to come back. I am familiar with the sounds of the house now. The sounds it makes when they fight and stomp feet, when they make love and their bedsheets ruffle, and when they make tea, and when they clean.

So strange no? That when you watch a film, you too begin to live in the same house as them.

Sounds – House, Baltic Sea, crickets, and trees.

***

Day Three

Today, I see the festival itself, not the films. I am sitting in the projector room with the organisers. I watch as the tension, and the anxiety of running festivals unfolds before me. Delays, Subtitles not working heart attacks, people queuing up to watch films – line growing and growing.

Irattajeevitham – Malayalam, Suresh Narayanan

Favourite scene in the film is when Sainu and Amina take off someone’s boat out into the sea. Sainu is shit scared and tells Amina let’s go back. Amina is thrilled because she can’t believe they are floating in the middle of the sea and can’t stop squealing. As they row back to the shore, a crowd has gathered to wait to see if they’ll return alive. Because not one of the boys in the town has had the balls to take a boat out like that with no experience.

Sounds – Sea, Kerala, Trees, Birds, waves, crickets.

The Ice-cream killer – Ukraine, Anna Wasswerwoman

The second half of the day, I sit demurely, in the back. It’s noisier here. Because I understand that people are full of opinions here.

This is my favourite film of the day. The film is five minutes long and shows a woman devouring an entire ice cream for five minutes. It’s a thick cone with Vanilla ice cream. The melted bits fall on the street and the camera zooms in on that for a while.

How often do you see this?

I love watching women eat. Die if you don’t.

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Behind me two men loudly bemoan the choice of films. They haven’t liked a single film since morning, they want to talk to the selection committee, and they leave in a huff. I want to scream after them –you forgot your male privilege here boys, you’ll need it – take your opinions with you please, they are stinking up the whole place here.

Behind me, a woman tells her friend in Kannada to sit chakkla mukkla to ease her cramps. I think back to when the last time I listened to that phrase was. Very long.

All my love to the organisers of #BQFF2018. Keep doing what you guys are doing. Because it makes men leave in a huff.

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BQFF Diaries, Day One – 9/3/18

Image Credits: BQFF Twitter page

As always, the darkness in the auditorium at Max Mueller was inviting, not too cold; and my first glimpse of whatever was on screen was the bluish glow from the white mattresses on the floor, and the various bodies sprawled on it.

When one is in the auditorium for the first hour of BQFF, one is a body – in that, you are conscious – the mattresses take about an hour to make you feel at home so you won’t put your feet in people’s faces, you won’t even put it back, out of respect for the body behind you, you worry that your feet smell, that you are taking too much space, but within an hour – the bodies become shapes and you become a shape too. Slowly, you begin picking on the cracks of your heels, the corns on your toes, your hands go back, your body feels lighter and then you are slouching too.

The people seated demurely on chairs behind you are very much there but you only acknowledge them when you exit.

I spent the first five minutes adjusting bum, and a few minutes after that – looking for familiar shapes. Found a couple but one can never be too sure so I stayed put and didn’t grope them like I usually do (with consent, of course)

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The first film I watched was the Bengali & English – Aabar Jadi Ichchha Karo (If You Dare Desire) by Debalina. Two women who go by many names – Swapna & Sucheta; Aparna & Kajali; Moyna & Bandana leave home to be with each other. In Kolkata, they find family after family but not the space they need to simply be left alone with each other. Even so, they puncture the city with charming moments. Standing under a tree on a rainy Kolkata day – they both hold each other even as another woman offers them her umbrella.

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They get in. A herd of goats pass by and they both move back quietly, shivering. They seem more afraid of the umbrella woman than of the goats. Here they hold each other warmly, their arms entwined. This is a moment I teach myself to look for in all of the following films. Focus on hands, faces, chins, and stolen smiles.

Sounds – Kolkata rain, crickets, and early morning birds.

***

Ektara Collective’s Turup (Checkmate) was the highlight. It reinstated a long-standing belief I’ve had. That only old women can pull off the best dialogues in films. The star of the film is the 60 something Monika Mausi who works as a maid in a family that I feel like I know very well. Husband – booming industrialist who gives money to right-wing mofos. Wife has quit her career in journalism because husband wants baby.

She asks Monika one day – Tumhari shaadi nahi hui na? (You didn’t get married no?)

Monika snaps – Shaadi nahi hui nahi. Maine Shaadi nahi kiya (It’s not that I didn’t get married. I did not marry)

Monika   Image Credits: Scroll
                                                  Monika                                     Image Credits: Scroll

Monika is actually a cat who can’t stand cats. She lives alone, walks alone, reads, plays chess, tears down Hindutva cow posters, and drinks chai standing up – thinking, planning, and living. A fab moment was watching her play chess in one scene. A cat walks by and Monika brushes it away, like a cat would, nonchalantly.

Journalist wife asks her one day – Don’t you ever get lonely?

Yes. But it comes and goes.

Don’t you want to have a family of your own?

Why? We can choose our families no? That’s also possible.

The audience sighed, clapped, cheered, hooted, and whistled. Two tear drops came for me.

Sounds – A Koel cooing gently every time Journalist wife sits in her bedroom, wondering what she’s doing with her life.

Gaysi
Image Credits: Gaysi

***

Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thailand, Thai, Anucha Boonyawatana)

I learn that doing what one loves to do is the surest way of happiness – alone, with little joy, in sickness and in health.

Pich makes Baisri (an ornamental decoration made with leaves and flower petals) and this helps him survive cancer. He loves making them even if they wither and die soon. The most difficult thing about making this, he says, is that you must hold the leaves gently but fold them tightly.

Image Credits: Kino pavasaris
Image Credits: Kino pavasaris

Once he’s done, he lets it float away in the river and feels complete only after he lets go. Too many truths, too many moments. Many sighs. I liked watching him alone doing his Baisris than with his lover, Shane – who I wanted to kill. Pich died doing what he loved. In one scene, he tells Shane that he believes he gets better and his cancer goes away when he makes a Bai Sri. ‘It’s all in your head’, Shane tells him. Shane is just a husband through the whole film. Dabba fellow.

Sounds – Rain, forests, crickets, frogs, hills.

***

Snapshot (USA, English, Shine Houston)

Obnoxiously loud North Indian women howl and scream and laugh when a woman on screen is having orgasms for the first time in her life. Sounds of orgasms are far more desirable than the loud, raspy, insect laugh of people in gangs. Wankers.

Sounds – The camera’s kachaks, clothes ruffling, and women moaning. Off Screen sounds – disgust.

Image Credits: Twitter
Image Credits: Twitter

May and Might

I am afraid I must write this quickly before another Sunday dissolves into another long month that I cannot catch up with. This has been the busiest beginning of year. I didn’t notice BIFFES, META, BQFF nor any of the weekends that came after. I don’t remember the last time I sat in Parisian and read a book, don’t remember the last time I went to BCL, don’t remember the last time I took myself out for lunch (this is Swiggy’s fault)

Too much has changed and a lot more is going to change. I am not comfortable assessing if these changes are going to be good or bad. What I am sure of is that I am looking forward to another version of myself.

I thought I would quit going to Biffes this year because of Orion Mall. Turns out I can resist moping about endlessly if there is promise of 3 hours of stuffing my face with caramel popcorn and watching A abuse Titus. I can’t complain even though half my salary was dumped in cab fare and food because I caught some stunning movies.

Volcano, Corn Island, The Brand New Testament, Passion of Augustine, Gabo, Dheepan, Endless, and 3000 Nights are some movies I am struggling to remember so I can write about them.

Meta happened and happened well. Despite my dipping energy and random people’s capacity for malice, we were able to pull it off. I was on two panels this time and I must say I liked both of them very much. Part of reclaiming my space at Meta happened after one such panel. As I have come to discover, spaces can have more meanings than people. And Meta has become a space for me that has quite aptly gone beyond people.

It is easy to say this now but the ten days took quite their toll on me and I began to get perspective only towards the end.

And before I could sigh away the many lasts there were at the last day of META, BQFF arrived. Googly on white rum, I rode to Vasanth Nagar to catch Lawrence, anyways at Alliance. It felt familiar and nice to lay on the white mattress and watch movies in a half-sleeping half-crouching posture. It reminded me of normalcy and home. It reminded me of last year and how after averting a fiasco, I went to Goethe to watch Mommy’s Coming — all of us lying next to each other, shoes carefully hidden under somebody else’s, half my head resting on my bag, the other half on S’s shin. S and M giggling and slapping their own stomachs when daughter and mommy did the nasty. S’s disgust at the size of penises and A’s everlasting confusion about life in general.

It’s a Sunday. I am sleep-deprived and severely dehydrated as I write this but looking around the quiet and empty department calms me in a way that nothing has in a long time. Not even Old Monk. I need a new routine. I haven’t done Yoga in three months, haven’t done anything on my list in a year. Grr.

In other news, we said bye-bye to Faulkner and jumped to Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond and R.K. Narayan this week. I don’t know why. It made sense to read short stories after the torture that Faulkner put us through. I am waiting for vacations this year. This is strange because I don’t usually think about them until they arrive but all I can think of now — after three months of 2016 –is that long stretch of laziness with little dots of travel here and there – come soonly, May.

I need to get back to reading and writing in a more sustained way. This month has been cray-cray.