Queer eye for the lit club at Rainbow Literature Festival

Scenes from the first edition of Rainbow Literature Festival in 2019  

When the first queer lit fest was held last December in New Delhi’s Gulmohar Park Club, there was much excitement. The two-day event drew people from across the country, age groups and identities. This year, like most other events, the team behind Rainbow Literature Festival goes online, with over 50 leading authors and poets, as well as scholars, filmmakers and business leaders. Titled Digital & One, the event takes place on December 5 and 6.

The buzz has been building over the last few months — back in May, they released a short film called Breaking Notions, which had 15 people — including author Devdutt Pattanaik, drag queen and filmmaker Avatari Devi and journalist Sandip Roy — followed by a poetry competition in June. Festival director Sharif D Rangnekar says, “Being as young and small as we are, the digital world isn’t easy to navigate, particularly given the intersections we engage with.” The human rights activist credits partners Oxford Bookstore, British Council and others for their help in organising this edition.

Similar events, like the ongoing Tata Literature Live, have opted for half-hour-long chats, while earlier in the year, Jaipur Lit Fest’s Brave New World had videos released on social media platforms. Digital & One has an interesting schedule, with Matinee, Evening and Night sessions. “I think we are all dealing with digital fatigue. Since the morning grind often ends by 10.30 am, we decided to kick things off at 11.30 am,” explains Rangnekar.

The lineup this year includes author and poet Akhil Katyal, filmmaker Onir, chef Ritu Dalmia, with author and drag artist Kareem Khubhchandani (USA) and scriptwriter Amani Saeed (London). Economist Bibek Debroy and Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor will deliver keynote addresses. There’s music by queer indie artistes Smruti Jalpur, John Oinam and Leon D’Souza, as well as a puppet show by Varun Narain, poetry recitals by Vishal Ghatge, Shambhavi Devedi and Aditya Tiwari and stand-up comedy by Navin Naronha. Cinephiles can look forward to films like The Men Who Speak Gayle by Nathan Kennedy, Nowhere by Christopher Manning, Do Re Mi by Prajesh Kashyap, Forever 17 and Parvaah.

“Last year, I choked up while introducing the people who organised India’s first pride march. This time, I think it will be the session with three queer couples — we need examples that reassure us that those who don’t have a partner or love, need not give up,” concludes Rangnekar.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:54:16 PM |

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