Thursday, June 30, 2005

yes sir ,CENSOR ! Keval Arora ( e-STQ )

article pub. in e-STQ by Keval Arora


[Jinnah was scheduled for performance at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 22 and 23 June 2005. With a month to go for their performance of Jinnah, Arvind Gaur’s group Asmita, like all other theatre groups in Delhi, applied to the police and other relevant authorities of the establishment for necessary permissions / clearances, which is the norm for theatre groups. On 15 June 2005 Gaur received a phonecall from the DCP (South) asking for the script to be submitted. What followed was a carefully worked out strategy for deliberate harassment of the group, with the police ‘requesting’ the group to ‘defer’ their performance, amounting to refusal of permission to perform.]

Yes Sir, CENSOR!
By Keval Arora

So, tell me, why isn’t everyone laughing?

The mess the Delhi Police created last week when it denied Asmita, a local theatre group, permission to stage its latest play Jinnah is just the kind of stupidity we’d find funny had it not been a long time coming. But, what else can one expect in a city that requires every theatre group to apply to the police for permission to perform? The police issue the licence in the form of a No Objection Certificate after they are satisfied that the theatre production constitutes no threat to law and order, does not violate public morality, poses no traffic hazard, and does not offend religious, political and social sensibilities. It’s tough being a policeman, I tell you!

But, can you imagine any play worth its salt doing none of these? Funnily enough, the most reasonable of the police’s concerns – that performances pose no traffic hazard – is administered by the Delhi Police in the most illogical manner. Groups are asked by the office of the DCP (Traffic) to furnish information about the number of vehicles expected and parking arrangements at venues that wouldn’t even have been built had their facilities not already been inspected and approved by the relevant civic agencies! (That this is a cruel trick to play on theatre performers facing the prospect of dwindling urban audiences is lost on our police friends, maybe because Dirty Tricks is chapter and worse in their police manual.)

I can’t think of too many plays constituting a threat to law and order. Not unless, that is, the plays are to be held accountable for the shenanigans of organised protestors who take umbrage at the slightest pretext and threaten violence if the performance is allowed to proceed. By that count, shouldn’t the police also blame me, when my wallet is stolen, for having carried money in the first place? Surely mine was the criminal provocation! Better still, shouldn’t the police ban all Republic Day celebrations, seeing the trouble they anticipate whenever that time of year comes round? The problem with our police forces is that they are inadequately trained to recognise the freedoms that need to be cherished in civil society, and that is why they invariably take the shortest route to ‘order’ by targeting the innocents. The only freedom of expression they end up thereby protecting is that of lumpens to express threats of wanton violence to property and persons.

What of those other perniciously vague clauses regarding offence to public morality and causing hurt to religious, political and social sensibilities? I say ‘pernicious’ because any cultural work that interrogates or even explores its environment with any honesty can be said to ‘offend’ someone or the other. Take any well-known play, peg its critique to contemporary social groupings, and hey presto, you have an aggrieved constituency on whose behalf the police feels itself duty-bound to display its censorious sensitivity. Remember George Bernard Shaw’s praise of Ibsen’s plays for their “immoral tendency”? “Immorality,” Shaw wrote, “does not necessarily imply mischievous conduct: it implies conduct, mischievous or not, which does not conform to current ideals." Undoubtedly, this is a grey area, one man’s meat being another man’s poison. But, silencing is no antidote. Let the laws of the land governing slander and so on be applied to offenders, if and after the offence has been committed.

So what have our custodians of public morality been doing when confronted by a serious theatre that aims to provide more than an evening of titillatory entertainment? It’s done nothing most of the time, which is about the sanest thing it can do. But these clauses exist, and are unfortunately brought out of the closet as and when it suits the police’s purpose, or when some official lacks the courage to let things be. As a result, consistency has been the first casualty. I can think of many, many other performances that should have been stopped by the police if Jinnah is everything they imagine it to be. Surely, as The Times of India argued in an editorial denouncing the police decision, it is the Advani storm in the BJP cup that has prompted some over-zealous police official to say ‘Jinnah yahan, to marna yahan’.

The story so far. When Arvind Gaur, the director of Jinnah, was asked to submit a script with just a week to go for its opening on 22 June ‘05, he did so despite the fact that in the past the police had not ever asked to see his playscripts. Even in the case of productions such as Final Solutions (on the Bombay riots) or Hidden Fires (on the Gujarat carnage). Apparently, the police can do so, though it had ceased this practice on the intervention of eminent theatre persons several years ago.

On 21 June, a day before Jinnah was to open, the police “requested” Asmita to defer its shows on the grounds that the script it received was in an illegible hand and had been submitted too late. The latter complaint was strange considering that it was the police who had delayed things — their request for the script came a full 3 weeks after they had received Asmita’s application. Also, Gaur points out that only 5% of this typewritten script was handwritten, and that too because these were the changes which had been made during rehearsals. ACP Anil Shukla’s insistence that the police was merely ‘requesting’ a postponement and wasn’t ‘banning’ the play was too clever by half — after all, Asmita didn’t have the freedom to treat the police’s request as just that and turn it down. The police obviously chose the word ‘request’ because it’s difficult to actually ban a play when you also claim that its script is unreadable!

Gaur’s offer to have the script read aloud or even performed at the police station was turned down. He was informed that a committee, whose members’ names would not be disclosed, rather than the police was looking into the matter. As the protests multiplied from various quarters, the police tried to clinch their case by trotting out their discovery that the annual municipal licence which permits the IHC to host performances was still under (routine) process, and therefore the IHC had technically no authority to rent out its auditoria. That other plays had already been staged at the IHC despite the pendency of the licence’s renewal didn’t bother the police since the business of the licence was evidently their alibi rather than their grouse. The result: IHC pulled down its shutters on all events as a precautionary measure.

Some strange arguments have emerged from all this. Gaur’s claim that his play bears no relation to the current controversy about Jinnah is not the point. So what if it did? Do we really believe that it’s all right for editors and columnists to have their say, but theatre and cinema should be denied the practice of persuasion? Protests against censorship cannot be founded upon claims to inoffensiveness or sanitised innocence. Similarly, Gaur’s comment that even a local Shiv Sena bigwig found nothing offensive in Jinnah is unpalatable. If constitutional policing creates so many problems, do we believe that accessing unconstitutional authority won’t? Hey, what would Gaur have done if our SS worthy had complaints about the script?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not advocate a free-for-all, unregulated space for the public exchange of ideas, be they through cultural forms or otherwise. (Such freedom, mechanically safeguarded, can easily be abused — by purveyors of hate speech, for instance.) But, surely, our regulatory methods ought not to be blindly mechanical or unaccountable, as those adopted by the police in the present instance. Cultural policing is never a good idea, regardless of the cut of the khaki cloth that its practitioners wear.

Keval Arora teaches at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, and can be reached at

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Quaid-e-Azam Jinxed: Ban on Artistic Freedom

Dear Reader,

We start this article with a recollection of events and sharing of what Asmita Art Group artists went through the course of events in last few weeks after deference of staging of Mr. Jinnah by Delhi Police. This article is addressed to anyone who believes in values of democracy.

Arvind Gaur received a script on Jinnah written by Dr. Narendra Mohan about seven months ago. The script of the play focuses on scriptwriter's interpretation and narration of an introspective dialogue of a leader who influenced masses, had the intelligence and courage to withstand political course of events-rise and downfalls.

This script and portrayal of Jinnah intrigued Arvind Gaur, the Director of the play 'Mr. Jinnah', so much that he, along with his team of artists, started research work and discussions on Mr. Jinnah about six months ago. Long discussions and debates followed among the team members which, interestingly, comprises of people with various ideological inclinations and orientations.

As all the team members would recall, it was not merely reading of a script but an intellectually stimulating exercise where a person's political life along with his personal life--projected as well as un-projected self --were discussed at length to find out possibilities of interpretation and visual representation on stage. Several meetings followed with the scriptwriter where he shared and discussed his viewpoint and interpretation not only with the Director but also with the team of Mr. Jinnah. Following this, almost two months ago, the team started with 'on floor' rehearsals of 'Mr. Jinnah'.

Fortunately or unfortunately, as it would seem to any individual reader, it's a coincidence that Asmita announced the staging of the play on Jinnah when Mr. Advani's statements on the leader, held responsible for the partition and the events following 1947, have been in hot debate since last month among various political circles, in news columns-online as well as in print, on various discussion forums.

However, what is most unfortunate is how the system of a democratic state treated a work of art, in the name of maintenance of law and order. You may be aware that Asmita's play "Mr. Jinnah" has been 'banned' from being staged. The 'ban' word is probably missing from the official letter issued by Delhi Police South District Office but the meaning is all the more same. The play was "deferred" by the Delhi police on the plea that they were not able to scrutinise the script as it was not legible.

Asmita had applied for various clearances on May 22 about a month ago. The clearance from the traffic police and the entertainment tax office was duly procured, however, the south district police asked for a script of the play, which was immediately submitted on June 16. But, the permission was denied on June 21, a day before the announced date of the show, without assigning any clear reason. The police so far have not been able to cite a proper cause for the ban, though they agree that there is nothing objectionable in the play. Is not allowing staging of the play an attempt to culture policing and moral policing of the artists of this city, the capital of a democratic nation? The TOI editorial, June 24, also mentions," The police action is outrageous. It's a sinister assault on creative freedom".

On June 22, 2005 as a silent protest the writers and dramatists, authors, artists, actors, filmmakers, theatre lovers, and other intellectuals, historians and general public symbolically staged a portion of the play in front of the Lodi Road police station. The lead actor of 'Mr. Jinnah', Mr. Susan Brar was aggrieved due to demise of his mother the same morning. Though it was very tough but Susan braved the time and decided to stand by the team in joining the protest.

On June 23 the protest was again staged by the team where the theatre artists, writers, journalists, students were invited by the team of Mr. Jinnah to view a portion of rehearsal of the play. Following this a silent candle lit protest march was carried out from the venue of the rehearsal to the Delhi Police Headquarters at ITO. The protesters placed the candles outside PHQ and again staged several portions of the play.

However many questions crop up about the colonial type mindset of the police and the system. It is a matter of great dismayal that no one except the Asmita team has ever read the script of 'Mr. Jinnah'. We say this because; the ordeal of the team of 'Mr. Jinnah' does not end here. The team has been approaching many of the famous auditoriums in Delhi to hold its performance however; none of them has agreed so far to allow booking for staging of 'Mr. Jinnah'. As if, Jinnah's Djinn would start haunting the place.
One auditorium manager even asked the director to get no objection certificate from several political and religiously affiliated organizations!! Why does a psychodrama need religious sanctions? And, that too, when none of such organizations has till now raised any sort of objections against Mr. Jinnah. It seems two hundred years of colonial experience has converted us into Macauley's children for generations to come. We are so scared of ourselves, as unsure of our convictions and values as a democratic nation and have become so much used to an outsider being our master that we as a nation can not muster enough courage to look up into eyes of our past.

The right of the citizen of a democratic state is being blatantly trampled by our own colonized minds. We do not actually need an East India Company to do that to us. It seems to be a suicidal attempt by a state which has declared itself to be a democratic republic. With events like this, the issues of social relevance in the artistic fields would soon take a backseat and a mindless entertainment would emerge which takes no responsibility of society and has no concern with civil liberty.
Are we ready to pay heed to the slow poison killing democracy? It's high time that all of us who have even slightest concern for India as a democratic nation and democracy and civil liberty as a value, must come forward, hold hands together for the freedom of _expression. It is now just not a matter of how the police treated an artistic _expression, it is also a matter of what we are doing to ourselves by resurrecting baseless fears and inviting any sort of self styled religious representation to take decision for ourselves.

Coming back to the play, like most great tragedies, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello the play is more of a psychological scrutiny than a political retrospective or a historical docudrama. The visual treatment of the play is unconventional. The director has chosen a visual depiction of Jinnah's introspection, his pain, regret and sorrow as out of body projections. The facets of his character, emotional outbursts are simultaneously expressed through his body, heart, mind and soul, played by four actors other than Jinnah himself.

Let us all join hands together so that democracy may live and our future generations breathe not in a colony but in a democratic nation. Let us safeguard what is every citizen's right to free _expression in India.

Contact us at: 9312233561 (Arvind Gaur); 9811545882 (Susan Brar); 9868577411 (Anupam Pachauri)
Or e-mail us at; ;

Anyone interested in visiting us to view rehearsals of 'Mr. Jinnah' is most welcome. The play would soon be staged at a University in Delhi.

This write up is submitted with a request to the reader to forward it to friends all over the globe. It's just not a matter of Censorship by Police in India. As a human, do you believe in right to free _expression? Decide for yourself and act today.

Anupam Pachauri
For Asmita

P.S. This write up is submitted with a request to the reader to forward it to friends all over the globe. Its just not a matter of Censorship by Police in India. As a human, do you believe in right to free _expression? Decide for yourself and act today.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Straight answers


Surf 'N' Earn -Sign innow

Arvind Gaur , Theatreperson, on directing a play on MA Jinnah

Why did you choose Jinnah as the protagonist of your play?

It's nothing to do with the recent controversy. We've been working on Jinnah for the last 3-4 months. I'd think that Indian historians have not paid much attention to Jinnah and portrayed him in the incorrect perspective.

What will be some of the highlights of the play?

We're paying a great deal of attention to his personal life -- his relationship with his wife and daughter. We've also highlighted the events of 1920s when Jinnah resigned from the Congress and joined the Muslim League. Finally, we've presented the last days of Jinnah, when, suffering from cancer he, it is believed, told one of his doctor friend -- 'Pakistan ka banna bhool thi'.

How do you view Jinnah, especially in the light of the present-day controversy?

After all my readings and studies on Jinnah, I think, he was a very progressive man. He had a big role to play in the Freedom Movement, but suffered because of his identity crises.

What's it about Jinnah's life that has moved you?

Dedication. It's creditable that despite being alone in his mission -- and taking on people like Nehru, Gandhi, Patel and Edwina -- he thought about his nation first.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hindustan Times / The Edit Page

Hindustan Times

The Edit Page

Friday, June 24, 2005

Theatre of the Absurd

There's something to be said about Delhi Police's commitment to duty. What else could have prompted such swift action to stop staging f a play on Mohammad Ali Jinnah? We have been told that the script was confiscated not because of its contents, but because the auditorium that would host the play had its commercial-use licence suspended. This is rather absurd. The pendencey of licence renewal hadn't stopped other plays from being staged at the same venue. So where was the need for drama?

Whether the police are trying to score brownie points or simply latching on to the latest intellectual fashion statement-Jinnah-bashing-we still don't quite know yet. But why at all it is the police's job to 'inspect' works of entertainment? The law says that the police can stop the staging of a play if it threatens to 'upset' public morality or creates an unmanageable traffic situation or is liable to spark off law and order problems. The theatre goers as well s civil libertarians eagerly await the police's confirmation as to what prompted the seizure.

The nebulous reasons cited for cancelling the play only go to show just how robbed we are as a society of any sense of moderation. The police will be shocked if we were to charge it for harbouring a colonial type mindset. But that is pretty much what the police action has been about. Again, it is an equally curious deal if our law does require the police to vet, prior to public viewing, form of entertainment. A society that boasts of its democratic tradition and temperament cannot possibly allow-very literally- the moral police to decide what can or cannot be put on the stage. If the police does have the power to censor, it must use it with caution and sensitivity in the larger interests of a democracy's right to free _expression.

Compiled by
< style="color: rgb(204, 102, 204);">Anupam Pachauri
Asmita Arts Group

Muzzling Dissent - Editorial Opinion / The Times of India

The Times of India, New Delhi

Editorial Opinion

Friday, June 24, 2005

Muzzling Dissent

Delhi Police bans play on Jinnah

It's the timing which has landed it in trouble. The play would have probably sailed through smoothly had L K Advani raised so much heat and dust on Jinnah's persona. With all the attention focused on Pakistan's founder, Arvind Gaur's play, Mr. Jinnah, ran into rough weather. A day before it was to be staged at the India Habitat Centre in the capital, the Delhi Police asked for its script and even though it was promptly submitted, the play was 'deferred'. The police say that the script was submitted late, it was illegible and that the IHC auditorium's licence had expired. The police may even argue that it was only playing safe given the kind of passion Jinnah has been evoking in recent weeks. Such arguments are specious. The police action is outrageous. It's a sinister assault on creative freedom. "Especially since it is not a political portrayal, the script revolves around the personal life of Jinnah", says Gaur. But even if it was, the police have no business proscribing or even vetting the play. Are they competent to do so? The police's role is to maintain law and order. They cannot ban a play anticipating trouble.

Of course, this is not the first time a play has been banned. Earlier, Vijay Tendulkar's Sakharam Binder and Ghasiram Kotwal and Vijay Apte's Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy were stopped being staged. Few will disagree that orchestrated disruption of law and order to get a work of art banned is becoming a regular feature of our social life. The dogmatism which seeks to suppress artistic and creative _expression is gaining ground. Giving in to such demands only encourages and strengthens the forces of intolerance. In the process the citizen's constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of _expression is trampled. The most reprehensible aspect of such suppression of artistic liberty is that the threat of public violence and the official action to counter it end up serving the same objective-of silencing dissent and stifling creativity.

posted by
Anupam Pachauri

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Curbs on Jinnah play raise creative hackles


Surf 'N' Earn -Sign innow

NEW DELHI: The deferment of Mr Jinnah, a play on the life of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, by Delhi Police on Tuesday has invoked anger amid theatre persons across the city. They consider this as a curtailment of their right to freedom of speech and expression.

"The police have no business to interfere in our profession. Even if the script has any element of controversy, it cannot be stopped from being performed," said M K Raina, a theatre person. "I think, the police had not even tried reading the script. They are just playing politics," he added.

Devendra Raj Ankur, director at National School of Drama (NSD), said the play has nothing to do with L K Advani's comments on Jinnah. "The script was written about two years ago and rehearsals have been going on since two months or so. It is just the timing of the play that has led to controversy. Had it been played some time back, hardly anyone would have even come to know of it," he said.

According to the director of Mr Jinnah, Arvind Gaur, the script just revolves around the personal life of Jinnah. "It is about his confrontation with his father and daughter and how, as every other human being, Jinnah had both good and bad qualities," said Gaur.

"Generally we never submit our scripts to police. This is the first time we were asked to do so. Even then, we obliged and suddenly on Tuesday morning they say they cannot read the script and thus will defer the play. Isn't it wrong?" he questioned.

Some students of NSD feel that this move only shows how regressive society is. "I don't know what the play is about, but even if it is controversial, what is wrong in it?" said Durga Sharma, a pass-out of NSD.

Qaid-e-Jinnah? - PURNIMA SHARMA & JYOTI SHARMA / Delhi Times



Surf 'N' Earn -Sign innow

The X-Men (read: self-appointed censors of creative expression) have done it again. After the storm whipped up by Advani advocating Jinnah's 'secular' credentials, Mr Jinnah, a play on Pakistan's Quaid-e-Azam set to be staged in Delhi, has been banned by the cops...

On Tuesday, theatre director Arvind Gaur, all set to stage his play Mr Jinnah in Delhi, was told by the office of the additional DCP (South), Anil Shukla, that his production had been banned by the "higher authorities." Why? Gaur claims that Shukla told him that the script of the play, which he had been told to submit to the cops a week ago, was illegible. "We told Shukla that we would even hold a performance in his office to clear his doubts, but he said he had no time," says Gaur. "Shukla told us that it was the police's job to ensure that the play didn't cause a law and order problem, outrage public morality, or was opposed by any political/social organisation." According to Gaur: "The ban is an encroachment on our fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression."

Big Q: Since when was Jinnah a dirty word? Who is invested with the power to decide what the public can or can't see?

Delhi Times taps the public reaction to the police's action.. .

Jinnah jinx

Jinnah the film was banned in Pakistan because Christopher Lee, having played Dracula, played the lead; and Shashi Kapoor was the sutradhar (narrator). Lee, who received death threats and saw activists demanding his arrest and deportation, was protected by armed bodyguards throughout the shoot.

Though the film was commissioned by then President Farooq Leghari, then PM Nawaz Sharif asked cultural affairs minister Mushahid Hussain to scrutinise the script. Later, the film's producer was accused by its director Jamil Dehlvi of financial irregularities. Since the film's makers resisted pressure from the government to show Jinnah as a deeply religious leader, the government withdrew financial backing midway.
* Jinnah's NOT a dirty word : Theatre director Sayeed Alam has been through the script of Mr Jinnah written by Narender Mohan. "If anything, the play attempts to remove misconceptions about Jinnah. My play on Maulana Azad was banned in Gujarat because of what Maulana says about Sardar Patel, Nehru and Gandhi, who didn't really resist Partition. Jinnah played a major role in Partition but I don't understand why his name is a dirty word." Says Bhartiya Natya Sangh general secretary Reoti Sharan Sharma, "Jinnah, a nationalist till 1930, is certainly not a dirty word. In any case, the police isn't authorised to ban a play." According to theatreperson Joy Michael: "Why react as if Jinnah is a bad word? If we allow the play to be staged, people will realise that all this is uncalled for." Adds NSD director Devendra Raj Ankur: "The ban is a result of the controversy involving Advani. I've read the script of the play and nothing in it calls for a ban. It's just the lifestory of Jinnah."

* The Talibanisation of India? "The ban is outrageous. Plays like Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy have been staged without a hitch; Jaswant Singh has written a book on Jinnah. Ours is not a police or Taliban-ruled state, but a democracy. The ban impedes artistic freedom," says theatreperson MK Raina. For theatre person Lushin Dubey, it comes as a shock that the authorities have banned Mr Jinnah after building bridges for cultural exchanges with Pakistan. "In this climate of liberalisation, this is puerile," she says.

* Who killed freedom of expression? "Freedom of expression needs to be honoured at all costs," says Sangeet Natak Akademi secretary Jayant Kastuar. "Have the authorities even read the script of the play? Just because the play is pro-Jinnah and secular, it has been banned," says theatre person Vivek Mansukhani. "In the West, theatrepersons poke fun at the authorities and even royalty. Here, anything on a historical personality invites a ban. If this continues, nobody will discuss issues and we'll only have mindless entertainment
News >> India

Police won't allow Jinnah play, director furious:-
New Delhi | June 22, 2005 10:55:16 PM IST

New Delhi, June 21 : Delhi Police Tuesday put off the staging of a play on Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, triggering protests from the playwright and director.

Additional Commissioner of Police (south) A. Shukla said a directive had been issued that the play, Mr Jinnah, will not be performed at India Habitat Centre here Wednesday.

"We have directed them not to stage the play for the time being. There is some technical problem," Shukla told IANS without elaborating what the "technical problem" was.

Written by Narendra Mohan and directed by Arvind Gaur of Asmita theatre group, the play highlights the personal life of Jinnah.

Gaur termed the police action as "undemocratic" and a case of "high-handedness".

"When our play has nothing to do with law and order and is not aimed at arousing communal frenzy, why are the police stopping us from performing?" he asked.

"One of my friends in the Shiv Sena has no problem with the script. When political and religious leaders have no complaints, why is Delhi Police curbing our artistic freedom?

"The police should not play the role of the censor board," Gaur said.

Mohan said: "It's really frustrating that the police are interfering in the life of artistes. We strongly condemn it."

Asmita had sent a copy of the play's script to the police for scrutiny last week and also invited officials to the rehearsals.

"The script is with the police and we have no problem if the police come to our rehearsal for any further scrutiny," Gaur said. "We are ready to cooperate but the police should not curb our freedom."

He claimed that police officials had "admitted pressure from higher authorities and said it was a case of law and order".

Shukla, however, rejected Gaur's charge. "There is no question a law and order problem. They sent us a script, which is under scrutiny. But the script is not clearly legible," he said.

According to Mohan, the play highlights Jinnah's love life, relations with the family and his democratic values.

"The play is a family drama that tries to explore the psychological and mental recess of Jinnah's mind," Mohan said.


ban on play mr.jinnah

Ban on play Mr. Jinnah

As you all may be aware by now that Asmita's play "Mr.Jinnah" directed by arvind gaur, has been banned from being staged for no rhymeor reason by the delhi police.
It is not just an authoritarian, an undemocratic decision but also adirect attack on the intellect and experience of wellknown author Dr. Narendra Mohan and director Arvind Gaur.

Not allowing staging of the play is also an attempt to
culture policing and moral policing of the artists of
this city. the police so far have not been able to
cite a proper cause for the ban yet they agree that
there is nothing objectionable in the play. on the
other hand they say that they have pressure "from

Yesterday, June 22, 2005 as a symbolic silent protest
the writers and dramatists, authors, artists, actors,
filmmakers, theatre lovers, and other intellectuals,
historians and general public staged a portion of the
play in front of the lodi road police station, and
which gave lots of boils and blisters to the police.

It is no longer a matter of just a play, because it is
obvious now that the govt. & authorities are trying to
censor our thoughts and speech. we seek the support of
all artists, film makers, actors, writers, theatre
lovers, and other intellectuals who feel that they
will not let the police take away our "FUNDAMENTAL
A resolution regarding the same was signed and passed
by all the people present there.

IF YOU FEEL that you have got the hatred for Pakistan
as a heritYge and do not want to pass on this hatred
to the next generations.
And if you feel the to make friends with pakistan more
than buses and trains what we need today is to revisit
history and forgive and forget and carry on as good
neighbours then read on.

If you really think that the burned bridges can be
built and it will heal the mass anger and hurt by
taking another perspective at the events which were
just a part of our history books.
And if you are optimistic enough to accept that to
love or hate a person first you need to know about
him, then please come and see Mr.Jinnah.

I am not saying this because I am part of the cast,
but because I feel that they are taking away my
fundamental rights. ironically they didn't let us
perform a street theatre on the street, tomorrow they
might ask for a NOC for walking on the street or

We request all creative people to --- Please try to
generate awareness and be open to revisit history,
because we really now need to look into our country,
our govt. and our basic rights as artists. And we
being the generation of today, if we don't stand up
now then we will leave our next generatios mentally
and creatively crippled.

at one hand the present govt. is advancing towards
"friendship with Pakistan" on the other hand they are
running scared that "Mr.Jinnah" will open too many

The lead actor of 'Mr. Jinnah', Mr. Susan Brar was
aggrieved due to demise of his mother yesterday
morning. We expres our heartfelt condolences to Susan.
Though it was tough but Susan decided to stand by the
team in joining the protest. I could then feel the
pain Jinnah as a person must have felt when his wife
died or his when his daughter left his house. But the
leader maintained a brave face. Susan left yesterday
night to attend his mother's funeral today morning.

posted by
Anupam Pachauri and Sangeeta Das

Thursday, June 2, 2005

It happens here too'


FIFTY-FIVE minutes. 14 roles. One person. That's "Bitter Chocolate". Lushin Dubey's solo show, scripted & directed by Arvind Gaur, detailing child sexual abuse attempts "to stir, to provoke, to move, to shake up people" — and that's exactly what she did. Based on Pinki Virani's bestseller, Bitter Chocolate, a book dealing with child sexual abuse (CSA) in India, Lushin Dubey's stage version is as unsettling as the book.

Rouse the audience

"The idea of staging such a play is to wake you up to reality; if it has moved you, there has been an effect," says Dubey. "We Indians are lazy. If the litter is in the neighbour's backyard or out in the street, we don't want to do anything about it. It's the same with CSA." Over the next few months, Dubey and director Arvind Gaur will travel to different cities performing "Bitter Chocolate", sparking off debate and creating awareness. They have also been invited to perform at the UN in March 2005. "CSA is a universal topic," says director Gaur. "It is a difficult subject, but it is the reality — and many people are not willing to accept that it exists."

Various roles

"Bitter Chocolate" is a play that doesn't allow the audience to stay passive. Dubey switches characters, psyches and personalities in minutes to play various roles — a callous lawyer almost inquisitor-like with the 12-year-old girl who has been sexually abused by her father and his bureaucrat friends. "He gave you something to drink? What colour was it? Brown? Yesterday you said white. LIAR! Sorry, Your Honour... Which finger was it? This one, or this one... He showed you dirty films? Tell me the names ... "

Then she's at a public hearing, decrying the woman who dared to take her husband to task for sexually abusing their daughters. She's t Arun, who is regularly sodomised by his uncle. He washes his hands repeatedly till the skin starts peeling off. His parents, his psychiatrist, his family, no one believes he's being abused.

Thirty seconds later Dubey is a policeman who convinces a father not to file an FIR against the man who has raped his daughter, for making a case of it would mean ruining the little girl's reputation and besides, "FIR mein kuch hame likhne layak hona". A psychologist, a young girl being abused by her brother, a disbelieving mother, an angry grandfather, a godman...

"The graph of emotion is very erratic in this play — it jumps from the controlled fear of a little girl who has been abused to the perversion of a paedophile. I can't lose my concentration for a single moment," says Dubey, who holds an MS in Special Education and has been involved in teaching mentally challenged children in the U.S. and in India. "I keep thinking of the boy Arun. I met Pinki (Virani) and she told me that he still does not have skin on his hands. You have to hold on to something to play the roles convincingly."

Good response

Arvind Gaur cuts in saying, " There is a fine line between acting and characterisation. Such plays have a purpose; they generate debate. The multimedia screens I use in the play help the audience understand the subconscious of the person."

Though neither Gaur nor Dubey met any of the victims or offenders in Virani's book, they say they drew from experiences of family and friends. "I spoke extensively with Pinki. It's very hard to talk about it, but there have been instances of CSA in my family. Also when I worked with mentally challenged children, there was one child who had been abused... " Gaur picks up as she trails off, "I have some friends who have gone through this. I drew from their experiences, but it is very painful, very painful to have to script and direct such a play."

Dubey says the response to the play has been good, with people coming up to ask questions at the end of it. "Many people ask `why are you portraying the negativity of India. NGOs are working on CSA. Tell us what work is being done.' But if I tell you the positives about CSA, you will think it's being handled well, so you don't have to worry."

Arvind Gaur adds, "In fact, after the play (in Chennai) a young man, in his late twenties, who works for a software company and has lived abroad, came to me and insisted that CSA does not exist. I told him that every episode was based on a real life incident. He didn't seem entirely convinced, but at least the next time he reads or hears something, he won't dismiss it as entirely impossible. This is the kind of play that does not stay in the hall — it goes home with the audience. And that is the role theatre, film and documentaries play — to generate debate and make people think," says Gaur.

"My platform is the manch, the stage. We need to shout from the rooftops," says Dubey.

"This is not an urban problem or a rural problem. We need to touch the unconverted."