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.
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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