By Ashok Row Kavi
What’s with our five percent creamy layer? Everyone is complaining about intolerance. The Bollywood bratpack’s now talking about it and director Karan Johar’s the latest to land in the thick of things. He is reported to have said that the anti-sodomy Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is “a hurdle we need to combat”.
I don’t get it, Karan. Here is the whole LGBT community fighting it tooth and nail for over three decades. Did you not hear about or read the papers when sexual minorities all over India mobilised, held workshops, meetings, halla-bol public hearings, met up with members of parliament and political honchos to muster support to get Section 377 removed? Or were you so in your Sleeping Beauty phase that you didn’t wake up to the challenge to the British Raj law by the Lawyers Collective, which was backed by hundreds of affidavits from gay men and hijras, saying they were bashed up, extorted and blackmailed by goons and policemen all over the country?
This legal challenge went on from the late 1990s and culminated in the historic Delhi High Court’s judgment by Justice AP Shah in July 2009 only to be overturned by the Justice Singhvi in 2013 transforming huge communities into felons on the run. Where the hell were you in that struggle when we became a “miniscule minority”? All 30 million or so of us dismissed in one short judgment? And there wasn’t a whimper from you and Shahrukh and John and Arjun or even Dhoni. You would have led the Bollywood brigade instead of leaving ONE brave fellow like Imran Khan to hold the baby.
And you talk of “intolerance” now? Ho boy, there is something called delayed reaction and it’s obvious you are in the thick of it with this Johnny-come-lately act. What is galling is that you now come out with the “pansy” bit after doing scores of those Koffee with Karan shows where you discuss the private life of everyone from my favourite John Abraham to the new cutie Ranvir Singh and still say that it is difficult to “talk of my private life”.
Your digs about “my private life is private” have been noted even as you lean out so far out of that glass closet that I couldn’t make out where your centre of gravity was. And I’m not saying you need to be in the closet for political reasons. All we ask is that you make a Bollywood blockbuster on the line of sensitive films like My Brother Nikhil, made by an openly out director like Onir. But what did you do? You offered us Dostana about two straight men “pretending to be gay” (to get housing with Priyanka Chopra) in Miami. So straight that one of the “straight guys” has a pink sedan, for Shiva’s sake!
I must say you gave me a real shock when the two hunks got lip-locked in the devastating denouement, with revulsion and disgust showing openly on their faces through that light pancake. Hell, how homoerotic and homophobic – all rolled into one big Bollywood Roti-roll – is that? Why do you insult us like this and insist that such films open up doors for the gay community?
Now here is what I wish you would do. You can give a very sensible straight forward interview saying you’re gay as a row of pink gypsy tents and be done with it. You’ll be surprised how little commotion it makes. Then you can come for a meeting of the Parents of Gay and Lesbian, Transgender Children and see what’s happening.
It’s headed by the brilliant and hard working actor Chitra Palekar, who really does her homework. After discovering what her lesbian daughter was going through, Chitra decided to catch the tiger by the tail. She went to libraries, sifted through the net and read up all there was to know about the subject. Fortified with that knowledge, she fought back in the media against other parents and fatuous fools like Baba Ramdev about how “natural” we are – like left-handed children, for example.
And she’s not giving up; she has been a part of each one of the huge “acceptance meets” held by various gay and lesbian groups in Mumbai and fought for our rights to be what we are. She has been an inspiration to us and a terror to politicians in the Shiv Sena, the BJP and the Congress – you should have seen how she tore into the city BJP boss, Ashish Shelar, last year; that he better educate his party about the hell that LGBT people go through instead of backing religious nuts like Baba Ramdev, who is now selling son-bearing Ayurvedic muck out of Haridwar.
Come on Karan, you can do it. Rather than tackle subjects that you live out every day, you choose to ignore those hundreds of young gays who you say have written to you saying how grateful they were that you started “talking about the subject”. So talk about it. Really.
The author is an LGBT rights activist and founder of the Humsafar Trust