Delhi International Queer Theatre and Film Festival 2016

Accept our existence.
By Suman Bajpai

The Delhi International Queer Theatre and Film Festival (DIQTFF) second edition was held on the 10th and 11th ofDecember 2016. It was a two-day event at the NCUI Auditorium organised by ‘Harmless Hugs’ and ‘Love Matters’, and witnessed a heavy footfall of the LGBTQ diaspora, as well as allies. The event showed ‘rainbow love’ in all its vivacity and through different paradigms. It comprised power- packed theatre performances and movies from all across the globe. The concept was to communicate, educate and transpire the existence of the LGBTQI Community in India. Famous Bollywood icons like Kunal Kapoor and Kalki Koechlin had come forward to show support for team DIQTFF 2016. Kalki Koechlin and Kunal Kapoor have also extended their support by making videos for the fest. Kapoor says, “Events such as these are essential… as the LGBTQ community has been grossly underrepresented and stereotyped. Cinema and theatre are really powerful mediums as they can reach out to masses, and change the situation.”

Personalities like Piyush Mishra, Prince Manvendra, Arvind Gaur, Jess Dutton graced the event.

Initiative for a change

It was a one of its kind event which merges theatre and films curated from national and international platforms based on Queer Theme.

Vinay Kumar, founder, Harmless Hugs said, “Movies and theatre are the reflection of our lives which create change and influence society at large. We want to bring change with these initiatives because DIQTFF is not just a Queer film festival. It is our activism through art and culture to change and question society. Harmless Hugs aims to outreach more and more people through this festival to highlight and sensitize the many facets of the Indian LGBTQI population.”

Harsh Agarwal, president, Harmless Hugs and convenor of DIQTFF said, “One of the prime objectives to do this event on such a scale is to make a statement that Queer is just as the mainstream. We intend to reach out to not just as the community but also the society in general – allies or not.”

Amit, a transgender and a Kathak dancer, is still struggling for acceptance. “This is the only platform where I am comfortable. I usually lock myself up in the bathroom and cry because nobody is happy to see me at home,” he said. A lot of transgenders at the event identified with Amit, while others were moved by his account. According to Sneha, a 22-year-old transgender, this support in a closed environment means little if it isn’t mirrored outside. “None of these people who appreciate Amit here will stand up when a transgender is ill-treated outside. We need more acceptance. That is all that we are asking for,” she said.

Key highlights

Day one began with addresses by the Deputy High Commissioner of Canada, Jess Button, and Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil. Following this was a stirring act, Pehchaan, by Asmita Theatre Group. Messages such as “Baatein kuch meri teri iski uski hain, baatein pyaar ki hain”, discarded homophobia by touching on the audience’s nerves. The In The Mood For Love documentary celebrated innocent love stories of several gay and lesbian couples. Short films such as Tere Mere Darwaze, Satrangi, and 5 Questions showed various stigmas and prejudices, as well as violence, that the LGBTQ community goes through. Tanishq emotionally pitched the physiological needs of the community, which only asks for the freedom to express love in any way they want. It thus glorified the versatility of love.

After that Oxani Chi and Layla Zami presented “I Step On Air”, a musical dance and theatre performance inspired by the works of the feminist poet, performer, and activist May Amin. Their captivating performance depicted the experiences and struggles of women and of people of colour through dance, spoken word poetry, saxophones, and newspapers. Next was a nukkad natak titled “Hum Toh Bolenge” by the Sangwari Theatre Group. The play was a sarcastic and a direct onslaught on the absence of queer issues in our society and on society’s absurd narratives. The hard-hitting performance received a standing ovation and immense applause from the audience.

Later in the day, Sahil Verma, editor of the Harmless Hugs book, introduced to the audience writers, who began an interactive session where terms such as ‘asexual’ and ‘intersex’ were explained and discussed. Following this, the literary and Bollywood stalwart Piyush Mishra launched the Harmless Hugs book, a queer anthology. He recited his profound poetry, including “Paanch saal ki ladki aur rape” and “Kuch ishq kiya kuch kaam kiya”. The session ended with a sing-along of “Husna”.

The last performance of the day was Asmita Theatre Group’s “Lihaaf”, based on an Urdu work by Ismat Chughtai. The tale of a little girl and her innocent understanding of a queer relationship.

Day Two of the DIQTFF began with a video message from Kalki Koechlin, who offered her support to the event and identified the need for more art centred around the LGBTQ community. There were then movie screenings of short films that humanised the community by showing the difficulties that LGBTQ people face. There was a focus on gay men and on transgenders, such as in the movies That’s My Boy and AMORfo. Following this was a video compilation of parents talking about their experiences with their LGBTQ children, and their process of acceptance. The “My Child Is Gay” video struck a nerve with memorable statements from some of the parents such as “All I wanted was his happiness”. The audience then shared their own experiences of coming out of their children.

There was a short informal chat with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who talked about people’s reactions to his coming out, revealing that even people who respected the royal family had burnt his effigies. However, he said that he blamed their ignorance and that “it is always possible to change homophobia into understanding”.

One of the highlights were Amit and Amit, who performed two spectacular dances. The first of these showed the story of a transgender man who is kicked out of his house by his father, and is then forced to beg on the streets. Finally, through dance, he finds happiness and his father invites him back home and feeds him.

The DIQTFF was truly a unique and accepting environment for everyone who was present, and a perfect end to a difficult year.

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