Theatre owners and producers in Gujranwala have complained about unfair treatment by the government in banning them from staging plays during Eid holidays.
They say there is no justification for banning theatre in Gujranwala, when there is no such ban in any other city of the province.
As many as five theatres in Gujranwala – Roxy, Punjab, Gujranwala, Anmol and Nigar – and two in Jaranwala have been banned from staging plays during Eid holidays.
Shahid Bhatti, owner of Roxy theatre, said owners and producers would lose hundreds of thousands of rupees invested in plays that were to be staged during the holidays due to a last minute ban imposed on orders of District Coordination Officer Amin Chaudhry.
Babur Mehr of the Gujranwala theatre said there was no report of a ban on performances until Saturday morning. He said the government should compensate him for the loss he would incur due to the last minute decision.
A theatre producer, who prefers to be known as Gushi II, said he had invested Rs600,000 on a play he planned to stage during the Eid holidays. He said he had been barred from staging the play while producers in other cities including Faisalabad were not facing any such ban. “It is too late to consider shifting the play to a theatre in Faisalabad now,” he said.
DCO Amin Chaudhry said he was following the Home Department’s directions in imposing the ban on theatre. He said the instructions were conveyed to his office on Saturday.
A spokesman for the Gujranwala Arts Council said there was no way they could allow theatre performances until the provincial government lifted the ban.
On Friday, Shabab-i-Milli district president Furqan Butt had issued a press statement condemning theatre and vowing to disallow plays during the Eid break. Butt and some other members of Shabab Milli had also surrounded Roxy theatre for over an hour to protest, what they called, vulgarity. The seige had ended after a police team reached the scene and spoke to the rally leader.
In Faisalabad, a three-member committee has censored scripts of the plays that will be staged at eight theatres during the Eid holidays.
Faisalabad Arts Council Resident Director Muhammad Tariq said the committee had no issues with theatre performances as long as they followed the censored script. He said they had not taken out dance performances from the plays. “We have left dance performance in the plays whereever we felt that the script justified these performances,” he said.
He said each theatre performance would be attended by a representative of the censor committee to monitor it for violations of the final scripts.
The committee includes DCO Nasim Sadiq, FAC Accountant Muhammad Abu Bakr, Assistant Commissioner Mehr Shafqat Ullah and Public Relations Director Dr Arif Bhatti. Theatre performances will also continue during Eid holidays in Multan and Bahawalpur.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.