Fest pushes local limits

Lineup included Indian films with a gay/lesbian theme

NEW DELHI — As conservative India battles to come out of the closet, lesbian groups from around the world descended on Mumbai for a three-day film fest (Oct. 17-19) highlighting the issues and problems faced by them globally.

Included in the lineup were five Indian films with a gay/lesbian theme — all made this year but all falling foul of India’s scissor-wielding censors.

“We have created a package of films and videos around the theme of sexual and gender minorities,” said Chatura, one of the organizers from the “Humjinsi” (relationship between same sex) organization.

“Our agenda is to primarily create a forum for showcasing works emerging from South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. This three-day campaign will highlight the gender and sexuality problems among lesbians in India.”

Lesbianism and homosexuality are banned in India, though prosecutions these days are rare. The Indian government and gay groups are locked in intensive legal tussles over the right to determine one’s sexual partner.

The Hindu nationalist government claims that same-sex relations are against the country’s culture. The organizers of the fest see it as a platform to further help build up their movement at grassroots level in India.

One of the movies, “The Pink Mirror,” features a 40-minute slice of life of Indian drag queens, which according to director Sridhar Rangayan, has infuriated the censors in Delhi.

“They said it was full of obscenities and vulgarities,” Rangayan told Variety. The film uses words like “slut” and “bitch” in typical drag queen-type lingo.

Rangayan is challenging the ruling and is hopeful that the new chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, Anupam Kher, will give a more sympathetic hearing.

“We at least hope that the censors will explain why they have rejected the movie,” he said of “Mirror,” which has already been shown at 20 international film fests.

“If the censors have a problem with two males’ expression of love for each other, there is no hope,” he said.

He vowed, however, that he would make no cuts to the movie and planned to submit it to next February’s Mumbai Film Fest.

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