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    From short films to survival recipes, queer festivals across the country showcase the best of the LGBT community.

    REGARDLESS of Section 377 that criminalises same-sex relationships, the LGBT community has successfully created an identity in the cultural strata in the country at least. Since 2008, the Saturday after every Republic Day has seen thousands gather for the Queer Azadi Mumbai festival with their footfall increasing from 5,600 last year to over 7,300 this January. Last November saw the Bengaluru Pride and Karnataka Queer Habba. Here is a heads up to two other festivals to look out for in the coming months.

    Queer and Allies Festival
    This Sunday head to Besant Nagar, to catch photo exhibitions, movie screenings, poetry reading sessions, and painting exhibitions at Spaces. First held last October in Bangalore, it is an initiative of MIST — an online collective of LGBT people founded in 2010). This year’s edition has around 25 artists from across the country coming over, and goes beyond LGBT as a theme. “We also look at basic     social issues and topics through our events, like women and child rights, caste differences, and so on,” says Pune-based Shyam Konnur, founder, adding that after this weekend’s event, they will head to Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and Delhi. FTII-graduate Aritra Sarkar from Pune, whose photographs themed Everyone Dies Grey depict intriguing stories of about LGBT people, is one of the most anticipated participants. Entry free. Details: queeranalliesartfest.in

    Kashish
    With 82 films from over 50 countries, Mumbai’s Kashish is one of the biggest film festivals in South Asia. What’s heartening is that 30 per cent of the people who now attend the event are not even from the LGBT community. The crowdfunded festival that is expecting around 2,000 footfalls this year, is known for screening movies (both feature films and shorts) that are themed on problems faced by the LGBT community and also other social issues. “This year, the theme is called Seven Shades of Love, with more emphasis on how the community overcomes their difficulties,” says festival director and filmmaker, Sridhar Rangayan, who collected his National Award for his movie Breaking Free (Best Editing category) earlier this week. “Original entries (mainly from independent directors) earlier amounted to over 800,” he chuckles, adding that they have films from conservative countries like Iran, Lebanon and Morocco as well.
    From May 25-29,at Liberty Cinema, Alliance Française de Bombay and Max Mueller Bhavan. Details: mumbaiqueerfest.com

    GayBombay
    Founded 18 years ago, GayBombay, with over 1,000 members, is popular for their cooking meets. Balachandran Ramiah, one of the members, says that the upcoming meet on May 15 will focus on summer cuisine. “Since many from the LGBT community do not marry, they tend to live alone, so it’s essential to pick up skills like cooking,” says Ramiah. To be held in the residence of a member, the five-hour session also includes live demonstrations. Details: gaybombay.org

    —Karan Pillai

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