Director of Gujarati film Meghdhanushya: The Colour of Life plans to challenge entertainment commissioner’s order in HC after being refused tax exemption because the film uses the words ‘homosexual’, ‘gay’ and ‘samlaingik’ finds Priya Adhyaru-Majithia
On one hand a Gujarati film has been chosen as India’s entry to the Oscars much to the surprise of the state government and on the other, makers of a small-budget regional movie are struggling for its release because Gujarat government refuses to make it tax free. The reason being, it deals with the subject of homosexuality. While Gujarati movies have been enjoying tax exemption since 2001, producers of Meghdhanushya: The Colour of Life are being denied the same. A detailed order sent to them by the entertainment commissioner exposes the deeply entrenched homophobia of the state government.
State govt refuses tax-free benefit to film on gay rights. It stated, “The words homosexual, gay, chhakka, hijda, samlaingik and nalayak should be removed from the film. The speech by Rajpipla prince ManvendrasinhGohilshouldbemuted as he tells the viewers how he was initialy not accepted by his family after he revealed to them that he was a homosexual person. The subject of homosexuality in the movie is controversial and not acceptable to the Indian society.”
‘FILMMAKERS PLAN TO APPROACH HC’
Appalled and angered by the attitude of the state government, the movie makers are now planning to file a petition in Gujarat High Court this week, challenging the commissioner’s order. They are being supported by Mumbai’s Humsafar Trust and Vadodara-based Lakshya Trust that promote LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights.
Dr K R Devmani, director of the film, said, “Homosexuality continues to be a taboo subject in the country. Despite Delhi High Court’s landmarking ruling decriminalising gay sex, the community still faces discrimination, ostracism by families and is denied basic rights. My movie is aimed at sensitising the society to their struggles and sufferings. It was scheduled for release on April 27. We had even conducted a special screening for select invitees on April 25.”
He added, “It is ironical and unfortunate that I have to experience injustice and harassment by the state government for attempting to make a movie on a subject that is rarely picked up by film makers.”
The film stars Bhim Vakani, father of Disha Vakani of Tarak Mehta na Ulta Chashma, Mitresh Varma, Bhaumik Nayak, Jeet Upendra, Jeet Swadiya, Alpna Majumdar, Rahi Tintoliya and Aasha Panchal.
‘QUALIFIES ALL CRITERIA FOR TAX EXEMPTION’
Meghdhanushya, says Devmani, qualifies for all the criteria for tax-free benefit: the length of the movie is not more than 2.17 hours; 50 per cent of the movie has been shot in Gujarat; four prints of films are available for release in theatre; application for tax free benefit had been made within 30 days of receiving censor board approval.
On April 2 this year, the movie received A category censor board certification for theatrical release and it applied for tax-free benefit on April 4. After a series of follow-ups, Devmani received the detailed order by Entertainment Commissioner Praful Harshe, refusing the benefit unless some changes were made.
“The order demands that the words ‘homosexual’ and ‘gay’ be removed from the film. It also demands that a speech by social activist Manvendrasinh Gohil, who is the narrator in the film, be muted. Only if these requirements are met, the film will qualify for tax exemption. But if I remove these parts, the movie will be murdered,” said Devmani.
‘SUCH QUERIES NOT ANSWERED UNDER RTI’
“After a series of arguments, we even filed RTI queries in June, seeking to know whether the entertainment commissioner can demand changes in the film after it has been approved by the censor board. But we were told that such questions do not come under the purview of RTI and therefore answers cannot be given. We now plan to file a petition in the high court against the entertainment commissioner’s order,” added Devmani.
LGBT activist Manvendrasinh Gohil said, “Not allowing tax exemption to the film on grounds that it deals with homosexuality is sheer injustice. It is all the more irresponsible on part of the state government to come up with unjustified demands after Delhi HC ruling decriminalised same sex behaviour among consenting adults in 2009. ”
When Mirror contacted Deputy Entertainment Commissioner K S Yagnik, she said, “It is the officer who decides whether a certain film can be given tax benefit or not. Generally, all Gujarati films are given the benefit. Meghdhanushya is the first controversial film that has been denied tax exemption and the reasons have been explained to the makers in a detailed order by the entertainment commissioner.” Harshe, who has been transferred, could not be contacted.
Meghdhanushya: The Colour of Life deals with the issue of homosexuality as a reality of life. This is the first time that a homosexual character plays the central protagonist in an Indian film. There is no sexual scene in the film. It’s an offbeat, sensitive and creative family drama. The Prince of Rajpipla, Manvendrasinh Gohil, who is a known gay rights activist has sent across a special message to the audience along with other activists Sylvester Merchant and Ankur Patil. “It took us oneand-a-half years to make the film and it certainly does not deserve such an insensitive treatment,” says director K R Devmani.
ENTERTAINMENT COMMISSIONER’S ORDER
The words homosexual, gay, chhakka, hijda, samlaingik and nalayak should be removed from the film. The speech by Rajpipla prince Manvendrasinh Gohil should be muted as he tells the viewers how he was not accepted by his family after he revealed to them that he was a homosexual person. The subject of homosexuality in the movie is controversial and not acceptable to the Indian society.
The write up appeared in as cover story of Ahmedabad Mirror on Sept 25, 2013