The weekend of 10-11 December saw the city of Pune celebrate its second edition of the Q Fest. The festival celebrated the pride of the queer with the theme, ‘Being Seen Being Heard’. Organized as a collaborative effort of various groups and individuals in support of the LGBT community, the two day fest consisted of movie screenings, music and theatre performances, discussions and their very own Pride March.
Similar to LGBT support systems in other cities of the country, Pune’s chapter too works towards the idea of respecting the queer community. Despite the rather prevalent societal conformism, it is important to understand and respect the dignity of the queer. Being queer isn’t about parties, festivals, rallies or marches; it isn’t about having a day of celebration; it isn’t about the way one dresses or who they choose to bed. Being queer is a way of life; it is about being unique and having the rightful freedom to express this. It is this very cause that wants to be recognized throughout the nation.
Cultural differences have consistently been held against the LGBT community. Be it the argument of violation of nature’s norm or the apparent ‘blatant blasphemy’ with regard to religious contexts; the queer have had to face it all. The fest stood as a counter to such arguments with a simple plea for a change in outlook. A little open-minded acceptance can help change the inhibitions of the queer of how they see themselves with regard to society.
Open Space, a creative forum for exploration of ideas, Birds of a Feather, Pune’s first LGBT support group, The Queer Chronicle, an e-zine that is for and about the LGBT and Quintessence, a Pune based NGO were key in the getting the festival together along with the unwavering support of various individuals. The festival was centred at ICC Towers on S.B. Road which held the screenings and discussions. All the movies explored the ideas of gender, sexuality, identity and the battle with stereotype as could be seen in films like Brotherhood, Through Our Viewfinder, Elena Undone and Les Chansons d’Amour among the others.
The second venue at Kala Chhaya, Patrakar Nagar was host to an evening of music, theatre and poetry. It saw the 50 minute long heartfelt soliloquy, Ek Madhav Baug performed by Mona Ambegaonkar about a mother’s discovery of her son’s homosexuality. This was followed by performances from Same Shit Different Day (SSDD), a Pune-based blues/funk band; the wonderful Meera Shenoy, a solo blues/jazz vocalist and Alisha Batth, a Mumbai-based powerhouse of a vocalist whose fame shot up higher after her recent performance at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Teamed with poetry from a few volunteers and a surprise LED Poi act by Chinmaya Rao, the evening was a beautiful gathering of people coming together for a singular cause.
The venues also had stalls for quick little shopping – custom-painted converse shoes, Indian handicrafts, jewellery, handbags, books and food stalls. The second day began with the Pride March at Budhwar Peth, a dominant red light area and continued with film screenings and discussions.
One of the highlights was the talk by Alok Gupta. Lawyer and Queer rights activist, he is also the co-editor of his new book Law Like Love: Queer Perspectives on the Law. His insight about the reading down of Section 377 and the ongoing battle for rights of the LGBT community answered many of the questions people seemed to have.
The fest was successful in its own right. The numbers of what I thought was a relatively small gathering was in fact a staggering figure for the organizers who couldn’t have been happier about the number of people who showed up. The most positive step was in the form of the parents who came out to support their children. After all, coming out of the closet shouldn’t be a daunting task. All in all, Q Fest 2011 was in its essence, a celebration of life. All they are saying is, ‘If it’s not too much to ask, could you please give us the same rights as everyone else?’ and to be honest, I don’t believe it is too much to ask.
Q Fest logo designed by Amey and Keith