Ajoka Theatre given green light to stage controversial play in Islamabad

Ajoka Theatre given green light to stage controversial play in Islamabad

The PNCA management had earlier said that the play 'Kabir Khara Bazaar Mein' promoted intolerance
12 Dec, 2016

The Ajoka Theatre is putting on three new plays in Islamabad including the contentious Kabir Khara Bazaar Mein, a play that was prohibited from showing earlier.

The theatre had in August wanted to put on two plays in the capital city and though it was allowed to put on a performance of Anhi Ma Da Sufna, or A Blind Woman’s Dream, which is was about the impact of the partition of the subcontinent, the theatre was not allowed to show Kabir Khara Bazaar Mein.

Also read: ‘A little bit of theatre never hurt anyone’

The Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) management had then believed the play promoted intolerance.

“This was laughable. The 15th century Indian mystic poet and saint, Kabir spoke against extremism and was known for being critical of Islam and Hinduism and for questioning meaningless rights,” said Madiha Gohar, the director of Ajoka Theatre.

Talking about Kabir, she said he was the epitome of peace and tolerance in all religions and encouraged plurality and diversity in the Indian society.

“We appreciate that the PNCA now has a capable director general who is an artist himself and his support for performing artists and art is very much needed,” Ms Gohar said.

PNCA DG Jamal Shah, who has permitted for the play to be shown on Wednesday, Dec 14, told Dawn he had read the play’s script and did not find anything objectionable.

“It’s an amazing script with a positive message and I cannot think of any reason why the previous PNCA management was so apprehensive,” said Jamal Shah.

Ajoka’s new play, Kabir Khara Bazaar Mein has already been shown and appreciated by theatre goers in Lahore.

However, the production house has faced similar issues in the past. In 2014, Ajoka was forced to edit the script for its play, Lo Phir Basant Ayee, a drama with sarcastic references to government policies and satirising problems arising out of extremism.

The production house was often prohibited from showing Burqavaganza which was interpreted as a slap on the faces of the ultra-conservative minority, which wanted to force women to wear veils.

Touching on the Bhakti movement, the play Kabir Khara Bazaar Mein touches upon the Sufi mystic and sheds light on the problems Kabir faced when he challenged the mullahs and pundits with equal zeal. The play shows Kabir being attacked by the Hindu and Muslim religious establishment but enjoys the undying love of the people.

The three day-presentation will begin with Dukh Darya (A Bond of Sorrow) on December 13, followed by Kabir Khara Bazaar Mein on December 14, while the last show Balla King will be presented on December 15.

Originally published in Dawn, December 12th, 2016


Satya Dec 12, 2016 10:13am
Kabir writtings are part of Indian school books and he is one of the most popular figure in India.
Dr Sarkar Dec 12, 2016 10:33am
Only the people with heart and mind of KABIR can unite the world for peace and prosperity. Kabir was the messenger of nonviolence. He was one of the greatest philosopher of the world, love by Hindus and Muslims equally.
Dr.Arshad Dec 12, 2016 12:21pm
@Dr Sarkar ........I wish the present BJP government had paid heed to Kabir's teachings!
somethingfishy Dec 12, 2016 12:40pm
Does anybody know when and were (actual address in ISB) is it being played? and how to get tickets?
somethingfishy Dec 12, 2016 12:41pm
Both of PNCA and Ajoka web sites has no mention of it.
Aly Alp-Ercelan Dec 12, 2016 02:32pm
Kudos to Ajoka for perseverance! And to pnca for wisdom