Saturday, June 25, 2005

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



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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

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