Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lessons from Jammu and Lucknow

It's an affliction that's widespread in our police force. They would rather harass and out two grown-up gay people rather than fight terrorism and real crime.

Two adult lesbians in Jammu were threatened and humiliated for living together, even arrested let off (because they had to be--there is nothing in the law books against lesbianism) but not without being forcibly separated and handed over to their respective families, with a (unofficial?) directive to stay separate.

No wonder we have blasts after blasts (and there's more to come, you bet!). Even if there's nothing in the law that makes it a crime for lesbians to cohabit or even have sex, the police will poke their idiotic noses in our affairs. It's time we stopped being diffident and told errant cops to get off our backs!

One big mistake on the part of the LGBT community is that the police have not been sensitized to our issues. So you will find the Lucknow incident where gay outreach workers who are spreading AIDS prevention messages or ordinary gay men who cruise the Internet being arrested and humiliated (in front of the national media too boot--and the National Human Rights Commission cares a whit about it). On the other hand there have been no such incidents in Bombay where the Humsafar Trust has (disclosure: I am a trustee) been regularly holding workshops for the police force in different areas of the city.

It's time LGBT communities everywhere became more proactive instead of reacting to crises.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Guns and 'Romance' - My Vote For The Best Picture Oscar

I am not being self-congratulatory but the plain truth is I chose the right film between Crash and Brokeback Mountain. I posted this on about 30 minutes before the Oscar ceremony began. (see the link in the title for my original desicrtitics post or read the cross-post below.)

I have seen two Oscar favorites so far, and my own vote goes to Crash. Brokeback Mountain, in spite of being a gay-themed film, did not move me the way Crash does.

I can think of several possible reasons for this --other than the intrinsic merits of these films. In random order: The accents (I think I did not understand one-third of the dialogue) in BM, its slow pace, and the fact that I have seen enough closeted men up-close so that I look at most of them with a clinical detachment.

Crash is also a tension-filled drama compared to BM's dry love story. The former leaves you with some hope, while BM leaves me, as a gay man, neither seething with anger at the homophobia (too subtle) nor does it make me cry buckets. I am not a fan of violence in film but here it was too fleeting to either hurt or outrage me (the way I was outraged by the violation of a woman's body in Crash). I would prefer the docu on the Matthew Shepard case instead.

To me Crash is not just about racial prejudice but also a comment on America's gun culture. I have no knowledge about the situation in the States, but I know that enough discrimination exists on the individual level and there is enough violence involving guns to make them alive issues--they may disappear from the public radar but they do not go away. BM's flag for the gay issue is too underplayed for my liking.

In India, coincidentally, some cases of shootings are in the spotlight again, though unfortunately I am yet to see any debate around gun control. I am of course referring to the cases of Jessica Lal, Priyadarshini Matoo and now the latest Meher Bhargava case.

It's time lawmakers and police officals made it more difficult for people to posses firearms rather than making it more tough to run places of entertainment. Or making it a crime for two men to love each other.

Anyway, here's a nice review of Crash by Philip French of The Guardian (not sure why he calls it Hollywood's last taboo though) and one by desicritic, Shanti.

I seem to prefer Philip French over Peter Bradshaw, but I can't agree with French's lavish praise of BM. I would by and large agree with desicritic Triniman's thoughts on Brokeback Mountain.

With the Oscars just beginning. Crash might just crash Brokeback's party.