By Luke Marshall Good
Queer Azaadi Mumbai, meaning “Queer Freedom,” is India’s annual gay pride celebration. First held in 2008, QAM was initially organized to draw attention to Indian Penal Code section 377, which criminalizes “unnatural” sexual behaviors. Originally introduced to punish homosexuals during the British rule of India, the section no longer considers consensual same-sex activities between adults as punishable acts after it was historically read down in July of 2009.
The week-long celebration began Saturday, January 21st with a photography exhibit that depicted the lives of community members in all their rainbow-emblazoned glory. A classical dance performance called “Colors of India – Through the Eyes of a Dancer” was also held Saturday, and a film screening and panel discussion entitled “Media and Society: Out of the Closet” was hosted on Sunday by KASHISH: Mumbai’s International Queer Film Festival.
QAM saved the Bollywood extravaganzas for “Love Is In The Air,” a showcase of gay anthems from the likes of Gloria Gaynor, ABBA, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Longinus Fernandes, the man behind the Bollywood-inspired performances in the Academy Award-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” choreographed the show. And as no gay pride celebration in India would be complete with only one Bollywood-esque performance, a flash mob was planned for Tuesday in which 150 dancers performed dances to a medley of three Hindu pop songs.
The week will continue with Dirty Talk, an open mic event where speakers will share coming-out stories, drag performances Thursday night by the Dancing Queens, and a concert Friday featuring popular LGBT musical artists, all leading up to the Queer Azaadi March on Saturday. Close to 3,000 people marched in 2011, and organizers are hoping this year will bring as many, if not more, supporters. Jai Ho to you, Mumbai!