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Tamil word or not?

Since 2006, the Tamil Nadu government has been giving tax exemptions for movies with Tamil titles. The latest film to run into this law is ‘Ochayee’, written and directed by Asai Thambi.

The state commercial taxes department has decided to decline exempting the film from entertainment tax on the grounds that ‘Ochayee’ is not a Tamil word.

This decision has irked Tamil scholars and political leaders including CPI state secretary D. Pandian and VCK general secretary Thol. Thirumavalavan, reported the Deccan Chronicle.

CPI(M)-backed progressive writers union secretary Sa. Tamilselvan argued that ‘Ochayee’ is a popular folk deity around Usilampatti in Madurai district.

“The authorities should not refer elitist dictionaries, which do not contain the folk dialect. Like Pechi, Isakki, Mari, and Kali, Ochayee is a name of a folk deity in the Madurai region,” he was quoted as saying.

Mr. Pandian, who hails from the Usilampatti region, said the government’s stand on Ochayee is tantamount to insulting thousands of Tamil women who have been carrying the name for generations.

“The government has given tax sops to films that promote casteism, orthodoxy, blind faith and are anti-women just because they carry Tamil titles. But they are denying them to a film that reflects Tamil culture,” said Mr Arunan, president, progressive writers forum.

Soon after assuming office in 2006, the DMK government announced tax sop to films that have Tamil titles to encourage producers and directors use Tamil titles. While declining to extend the benefit to this film, the authorities said Ochayee is a meaningless word and asked the producers to prove their claim with records.

The critics also question the government giving tax exemption other movies in the past, such as ‘Something Something Unakkum Enakkum’, ‘Va Quarter Cutting’ and ‘Shivaji’. In the case of Shivaji’, there was discussion over whether it was a Tamil name or not, but in the end, though agreeing that Shivaji was a Marathi name, the State government accepted that it was a Tamil title, and the movie was exempted from entertainment tax.