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Thursday, October 29, 2020

In many colours and words

India’s first queer literature festival in Delhi promises to hold the mic to the audience

Written by Surbhi Gupta | Updated: December 5, 2019 9:52:56 am
Sharif D Rangnekar

Going beyond binaries and bringing together different identities, “The Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer & Inclusive”, to be held on December 7 and 8, at the Gulmohar Park Club in Delhi, will witness the amalgamation of different forms of expression with prose, poetry, art, music, dance and cinema. Conceptualised by Sharif D Rangnekar, author of Straight To Normal – My Life As A Gay Man, the festival will be addressed by authors, filmmakers and activists including Devdutt Pattnaik, Nandita Das, Nemat Sadat and Onir. Panel discussions and talks will be interspersed with screenings of films like U for Usha, Monsoon Date, I Am Sanjo and Sisak. Excerpts from an interview with Rangekar:

How did the idea of the Rainbow Lit Fest emerge?

Earlier this year, after I released my book, I went to many literature festivals and I realised that a lot of them tend to tick the box because we (queers) are the flavour of the day, or the month, or the year, after Section 377 was read down. They were not even touching the surface of the issues that we need to address. Also globally, there just a few lit fests (for LGBTQ+ issues). And the third reason was we wanted to hold the mic. We were done with the mic being given to us.

What are the issues that you have with other literature festivals?

Queer and women issues — when it comes to gender as such overall — there isn’t an effort to go deeper. They may have an author or the book that come out recently but not multiple voices. We wanted to see if we can go beyond, if we can have a common ground instead of a stand-alone panel, and see how much is similar rather than how much is different. I don’t see that at the other lit fests, we keep talking of four to five books, but there is a lot more out there, which we don’t realise — in other languages, or queer characters in books, who we didn’t realise were queer.

What are the kind of conversations we can expect at the Rainbow Lit Fest?

If you look at the word queer, it basically means challenging norms, it is not about only sexuality alone. On workplace inclusion, everyone is discussing policy, no one is talking about ecosystem or culture, or about technology being gender neutral. We will celebrate films and interact with the ones who made them and question them. We’ll look at queerness from the perspective of drag — there is so much to the history of drag — of men cross-dressing and performing, some out of compulsion of patriarchy, some out of desire. And we have people coming from 18 cities from across the world — including Moirang, Kochi, Pune, Lucknow, Vadodara, and Sonepat, which is a reflection, not necessarily, of the lit fest but the appetite and the desire to be there.

Why did you choose to hold the festival in Gulmohar Park?

Besides access – when you go into a hotel, there is a certain intimidation, the other reason was that the first major press conference on Section 377 happened in Gulmohar Park in 2001 at Anjali Gopalan’s house, so it has that significance too.

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