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The Delhi International Queer Theatre and Film Festival (DIQTFF) was held on the 10th and 11th of  December 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.

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” canvassed 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 the lunch break, 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 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 performed 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 was appreciated by the audience with another standing ovation, bringing the first day of DIQTFF 2016 to a close.



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 centered 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 members then shared their own experiences of coming out or of their children coming out.

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”.

After lunch, 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.


One of the last events of the day was the play “Libaas” by the Saitan Theatre Group. The play innovatively had two characters, a boy and a girl, who turn out to be the same person in the end. The transgender man comes out to his parents as a girl, and the journey is truly beautiful. After the closing ceremony, in which the partners of the event were felicitated, Asmita Theatre Group concluded the two-day festival. Shilpi Marhwaha performed a one-woman show that portrayed the realities of being a lesbian in India, continuously facing not only society’s but also one’s own family’s backlash. The play elicited tears and laughter from the audience, and by the end everyone was moved and awarded a standing ovation to the actress.

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



Nikhil Kumar

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Niharika Dabral

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Vineeta Rana

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