The Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer & Inclusive, is a trademark owned by the Dwijen Dinanath Arts Foundation. The lit fest essentially aims to engage with the truths of identity and diversity, and while drawing on the distinctions, bringing out the common ground of humanity. There is no better way than literature, art, poetry, music and talk to bring such topics to life. The festival has been conceptualized by Sharif D. Rangnekar (Festival Director), the author of Straight To Normal – My Life As A Gay Man, a book released earlier this year, the first memoir since the reading down of Section 377 last September.

In conversation with Local Samosa, Mr. Sharif opens up The Rainbow Lit Fest!

What is the thought behind this Lit fest? What motivated you to plan and execute this fest?

The Rainbow Lit Fest – Queer & Inclusive was conceived pretty much in the middle of a conversation with a publishing veteran – Dibakar Ghosh – as we searched for international literature festivals that were queer-centric or part of larger alliances where queerness had a visible presence. We found hardly one or two of relevance and stature. This is when Dibakar felt I should put together one. He linked it with the fact that I curated events where expression was key, be it through music, arts or talk under the platform Embrace: Music Justice Arts. What he also knew is that I was in the midst of depression and needed to re-focus my life and I realise now that there was no better way than serving my community – something that always motivates me. The thought though lies in the sub-text – Queer & Inclusive. We hold the mic, we invite others, we bring things together, sharing a space with a clear sense of equity and equality. The sub-text is also linked with common ground and if we are all human and humane, there is common ground and we should remind each other of that. 

What were the pain points you experienced while putting this thought into execution

I have hardly had any painful moments as such that are unusual to putting together a festival of this size. There have been moments of stress as raising funds has been the greatest challenge. 

Tell us any interesting anecdote that happened while you were putting this fest into execution?

When the Traditional Nizami Brothers of the Omertà movie fame called me saying they were keen to be part of our Lit Fest, I was taken aback. My reaction was to do with my own bias assuming that they had no clue that our Fest is about going beyond binaries, engaging with sexual orientation and queerness. I asked Jahanzeb bhai did he know what the Fest was about. He immediately said ‘music is about love, togetherness and can bind all, it is the spirit of God’. He talked about inclusion and saw why they fitted in. He left me with this thought and a reminder that we still have hope for peace and less of hate. 

Which form of art is your way of expressing?

Music to me is one of the most beautiful ways to tell a story and send out messages. This is where I started my own kind of expression on queer and social issues using poetry and turning it into song. I did this through my band Friends of Linger and will soon have an album out. Writing is another form I strongly believe in be it articles or books. This is something I have done for a while including having my autobiography – Straight To Normal – My Life As A Gay Man – published by Rupa Books earlier this year. 

What things are planned for this Lit fest?

Panel discussions and talks will be interspersed with screenings of iconic films like U for Usha by Rohan Kanwade, the Konkona Sen-starrer – Monsoon Date by Tanuja Chandra, I Am Sanjo by Jijo Kuriakose and the most-awarded silent LGBT silent film, Sisak by Faraz Ansari. In addition, there would be dance performances, a puppet show, a drag act and three music performances by the Traditional Nizami Brothers, the 12-member Manzil Mystics and arguably the most diverse rock band in the country – ‘The Original Knock-Offs’.

Ultimately, over the two days of the Fest, attendees will get to interact with not just diverse views and those who go beyond the binaries but also a people coming from as many as 18 different cities and towns from across the world – Washington DC at one end to Moirang in Manipur, at another! 

Who all are associated with the fest and what was the thought behind bringing them together?

The fest is backed by an eight-member advisory committee who are Anjali Gopalan (Founder, Naz Foundation), Apurva Asrani (National Award-winning filmmaker, film editor and screenwriter), Maya Sharma (author and activist), Parmesh Shahani (Founder, Godrej India Culture Lab), Saleem Kidwai (historian and queer activist), Dr. Saif Mahmood (author, activist and lawyer), Vivek Mansukhani (educationist and theatre personality), and Zainab Patel (Manager, D&I, KPMG).
The Fest will be addressed by notable authors, filmmakers and activists, other than those on the advisory committee, such as Devdutt Pattnaik, Nandita Das, Nemat Sadat and Onir, among several other distinguished personalities, sharing stories and ideas that will seek to stitch together a more informed narrative of diversity, existence and co-existence. 

Do you think we need more of such events?

Of course! More the merrier! 

Since this is the first time, what impact are you expecting?

I don’t know what to expect but I just hope people go back understanding how beautiful life can be if we can share space, engage with others, find common ground and let people define their own lives particularly who they love and how! 

When: Sat, 7 Dec, 2019 – Sun, 8 Dec, 2019

Where: Gulmohar Club, Delhi

Also Read: Meet Raashi Thakran who is advocating Mental Health Awareness and changing One Life at a Time.


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