Vibrant hues of Satrang at JNU

Queer film festival

The idea of JNU Queer Film Festival was discussed many times over the last few years, but couldn’t materialise in the face of strong opposition from the administration.

Finally, post 11 December, 2013 Supreme Court verdict, queer activists received the support of the Feminist Faculty Collective and other teachers, along with student organisations like Students Federation of India (SFI) and students queer group Dhanak, that issued pamphlets condemning the administration’s lack of support. JNU hosted its first in Queer Film Festival - Satrang last year which was a huge success.

Enthused by the participation, the university recently held Satrang-2015 wherein 16 films were screened over a period of three days at the JNU Convention Centre, Centre for Arts and Aesthetics from March 20 to 22.

Gratified by the participation of students Dhanak’s Gourab Ghosh, also the festival coordinator told Metrolife: “We have been advocating for a queer society in JNU for a long time but being an institution we often faced problems regarding sanctions over showcasing queer films. We were not allotted any auditorium or centre, where people could come together and view the screening.”

Ghosh, said he ‘accidently happened to meet people of Sappho for Equality’, an organisation emerging from an LBT background, when he went to Kolkata with regard to his M Phil research and “decided to make Satrang happen in JNU”.

Paushali Basak, Sappho member said, “It is good to work with students, as they are motivated to have debates.”According to Basak “Queer activism picking up in the ‘urban pockets’ in India. But it is still very relevant to compare the situation with other countries, where the freedom of queer groups is much advanced.” Also, “films are the best medium for advocacy of issues, for a large mass coming from different walks of life.The cultural heterogeneity in the country is a hindrance to a unanimous voice for queer pride,” Basak adds.

Basak, being the curator of films at Satrang said that films were selected from less ‘popular’ works. Call me Kuchu, the fest’s opening film is about the situation in Uganda, where a new Bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato - the protagonist, along with others work against the legislation.

Talking about the film, Basak said, “Being a documentary the film is very significant to understand law and governance as a threat to freedom of expression. Also, Uganda is a third world country and the situation in many ways is comparable to India’s. There is a lot of violence in the film but there is a lot to learn from it.”

Chupan Chupai, a film about four individuals and their internal conflicts and their constant play of ‘hide and seek’ from mainstream population in urban Pakistan and, the closing film, Abar Jodi Ichha Koro, about two young women in love with each other, who later commit suicide, questioned the society, its traditional social mores and how they impact the lives of people who are considered  ‘different and ‘weird’.

The two poignant films were the most shocking and moving for the audience, a varied gathering of students and people who identified themsleves as queer and also those who didn’t.Listing some of the relevant films in the festival, Basak said the film Electric Indigo is very important for the ‘Indian audience’.

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