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HVK Archives: Theatre persons' bandh to protest play ban

Theatre persons' bandh to protest play ban - The Times of India

Smita Deshmukh ()
July 21, 1998

Title: Theatre persons bandh to protest play ban
Author: Smita Deshmukh
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 21, 1998

Leading Marathi theatre producers have decided to observe July 17
as black day every year - the date when the Centre decided to ban
the play Me Nathuram Boltoy. The entire industry will also
observe a bandh on July 29, when not a single play will be staged
anywhere in the state.

A meeting of the Stage Performances Scrutiny Board will be held
on July 25, in the city, where members are likely to discuss the
implications of the ban on the controversial play, which centres
around the life and ideology of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin,
Nathuram Godse. The meeting is also likely to decide on the
crucial issue of whether to review the script.

Meanwhile, the tables seem to have turned. From striking down
plays and dialogues with one stroke of the pen, the Stage
Performances Scrutiny Board is fighting hard to defend its
decision to give the go-ahead to 'Me Nathuram..' Lalita Bapat,
noted writer and senior, member of the Board, who had cleared the
script in November last year, told the Bombay Times that she
still stands by her decision. he entire play is Godse's
qaifiyat (explanation) and is recorded in the private court
sessions held in Red Fort after the assassination of Gandhi. Even
the Supreme Court has allowed the publication of the same in 1970
and it appeared in the form of a book titled Please, your
honour, she explained.

Shantaram Nandgaonkar, president of the Board also came down
heavily on parties who are now Questioning the clearance of the
script. oliticians have called for a ban of the play without
even seeing it once. It is unfair to doubt the credentials of our
members," he added. hough seven shows of this play were held
we have not received a single complaint. It seems that the only
people objecting are the politicians, says Nandgaonkar

The clamp-down on the Marathi play Me Nathuram Boltoy has once
again brought the Stage Performances Scrutiny Board under media
glare. Lalita Bapat, member of the Scrutiny Board, commenting on
the banning of the play said, "it is a non-issue which is being
converted into a big controversy."

Bapat also questioned the logic behind banning the play by citing
the law and order situation in the country, as the reason. "None
of the men gave up drinking after watching Marathi theatre's
landmark production Ekach Pyaala which dealt with the evils of
alcohol. Judging by the audience reaction after this play, I'm
sure no one will pick up a gun and start shooting people."

The Board which had illustrious persons like Purushottam
Darvekar, Narayan Bodas, Waman Kendre and Jadgish Khebudkar as
members, has itself been the focus of controversy for quite some
months especially after it decided to ban a few vulgar plays in
the city. President Shantaram Nandgaonkar also shrugged off the
epithet of "cultural police" given to his team by a section of
the media. "When our decisions suit them, the media laps it up,
but the moment they are inconvenient, we are dubbed as police.
These are double standards," adds an angry Bapat.

Stating that he had several sittings with Uday Dhurat, the
producer of Me Nathuram Boltoy and was aware that the rehearsals
were on for the past four months, Nandgaonkar said, "Are we doing
justice to the writer and the director by banning a production
without even watching it?"

He also expressed surprise over the total silence of the critics
when the same play completed 50 shows in Gujarati and led
aggressive ad campaigns.

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