Monday, November 29, 2010

QueerFest coverage in the Times of India

Film festival puts spotlight on alternate sexuality
Atul Sethi | TNN

New Delhi: The lights dim as the screen comes alive at Siddhartha Hall in Max Mueller Bhawan, venue of the Nigah Queer Fest film screening. With one short film after another on the screen depicting facets of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, the audience is hooked.

There are nods of assent as Vidya and Angel Glady, transgenders living in a small town of Tamil Nadu, pursue their quest for an identity in B Ilangovan’s film, Creatures. There are gasps when Andy and Harry, two urban males in big-town India, engage in intense lovemaking, in Amen. And there is laughter when Andy — about to get engaged to a girl and asked by his partner Harry whether he enjoys sex equally with her — replies with a straight face, ‘‘I don’t believe in pre-marital sex.’’

The films reflect the diversity of issues that the community continues to face — from social prejudices to the predicament of acknowledging their sexuality. At the Queer Fest, now in its fourth year, the celebration of queerness is unfurling with a plethora of events that range from

visual arts exhibitions to photography workshops and book launches.

The visual arts exhibit focuses on the theme of freedom, taking a cue from the Delhi High Court ruling last year, that Sec 377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional. Photography workshop too is exploring the same issues. It is conducted by photographer Sunil Gupta, who raised curiosity levels when he disclosed at a panel discussion that while he was growing up in Delhi in the 50s, the icon of the gay community was actress Meena Kumari!

In the next few days, films on male bonding, unravelling identities, religion and sexuality will be screened at the fest. Mario D’Penah, curator of the film schedule says ‘‘the fest will end with a bang, with The Big Gay Musical on December 5.’’

Apart from events and workshops, the fest has offered the queer community scope for some soul searching. Gay activist and co-ordinator of the fest Gautam Bhan says it’s now time to look at the queer community beyond their sexuality. ‘‘As Indians, we have multiple identities defined by gender, religion, language, region, caste and class. We cannot talk about equal rights for the queer unless the understanding comes that our lives are a sum total of different identities. ’’

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