YESTERDAY, JUSTICES ANIL R DAVE AND ADARSH K GOEL of the Indian Supreme Court passed an order that many would consider as truly obscurantist. It effectively increased the financial hardship of the film director #K.R.Devmani who would have otherwise been entitled to entertainment tax for his film #”Meghdhanyshya” (The Colour of Life) which is based on the true story of #Manavendra Singh Gohil, the gay prince of Rajpipla.
ALL GUJARATI COLOUR FILMS PRODUCED after April 1, 1997 are entitled to exemption from entertainment tax. Although Meghdhanyshya was cleared for screening by the Censor Board, entertainment tax exemption was denied to the film based on the arbitrary assumption by the State Tax Commissioner that if the exemption was granted, “it would send a message that the State was endorsing and encouraging homosexuality and would create friction in society.” Luckily, for the Director, the Gujarat High Court rejected the Tax Commissioner’s reasoning and ordered for the restoration of tax exemption. The Director’s luck ran out yesterday when the Supreme Court allowed the appeal of the Tax Commissioner to be heard in due course (say after 3-4 years !!) and granted the Director the liberty to release the film without entertainment tax exemption !!! While passing its order, the judges observed that “a section of society may perceive homosexuality as akin to “social evil”.
THE LGTBQ COMMUNITY EXISTS IN VIRTUALLY ALL SOCIETIES. Their presence, can by no stretch of imagination, be construed as a threat to society even if one is unable to empathise with their sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, we have to be grateful to directors like #Devmani for presenting a slice of life that would have been otherwise unknown to most of us. The incidence of homosexuality is pretty commonplace and although public declarations of their sexual orientation by persons like Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has contributed to the acceptance levels of gay persons, life isn’t still hassle free for them and the attitudes of institutions like the Supreme Court of India as outlined above will only make life more difficult for queers, most unfortunately.
INSTEAD OF ACTING POSITIVELY AND EXPEDITIOUSLY IN THE APPEAL, the Supreme Court appears to have taken a calculated, negative approach that not only perpetuates a prejudice but also causes serious economic hardship to a film director. It also appears to send, unwittingly or otherwise, a subtle hint to creative artists out there not to attempt any portrayal of marginal men, outsiders or queers.
PERSONS OF DIFFERENT SEXUAL ORIENTATION have indeed enriched literature and the arts and even the corporate world. We ought to judge such persons for their individual contributions and not for their sexual preferences just as we evaluate everyone else. If #Ang Lee’s #Brokeback Mountain, #Deepa Mehta’s #Fire or #Amol Palekar’s #Daaiyraa has enriched our understanding of “sexual outsiders”, by yesterday’s order, the Supreme Court has ensured that they would be fewer portrayals of such lives. Given the Court’s attitude, who indeed would risk the effort, time and money in such efforts ?
IN THE COURSE OF ARGUMENTS, #DEVMANI’S lawyer #Anand Grover had drawn the attention of the Supreme Court to the fact that Director #Onir’s film #”I am” which dwelt on the subject of homosexuality had won the National Award for Best Film to which the judges are said to have responded as follows :
“We agree there can be different views. We know your personal views. But there are people in whose views this may be akin to social evils.”
Note: The blog relies on the reportage of the Indian Express on the subject today.