The aggression on the Line of Control (LoC) took a toll on the performing arts, as the Indian government dropped the curtain on Pakistani plays to be staged in New Delhi – hours before they started.
On Thursday morning, an emergency meeting took place at New Delhi’s National School of Drama (NSD), with the administration speculating whether the plays from across the border would be staged or not.
By noon, the school had its answer; the Indian government directed NSD, to call off the performances, and make arrangements for refunds for those who had bought tickets in advance.
Ajoka’s “Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh” and National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) “Mantorama” were the plays from Pakistan, to be staged in New Delhi as part of NSD’s Rang Mahotsav on 19 and 17 January, respectively.
“Authorities informed NSD’s Director, Anuradha Kapur, that it would not be appropriate to hold the plays in this kind of atmosphere,” said A K Borooah on the school’s behalf.
The Indian government was unambiguous about its decision, no public functions, which involve Pakistani participants, should be held, for fear of the current law and order situation.
Ajoka’s play, which was to be staged in Jaipur earlier this week, also got cancelled after India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) threatened to hold demonstrations against Pakistan at the venue.
Expressing her disappointment, renowned artist Madiha Gauhar told The Express Tribune: “We travelled soon after the Mumbai attacks and performed in New Delhi and Kerala and nothing of this sort happened. This is very unprecedented and shocking.”
Napa, on the other hand, performed a musical excerpt from their play Mantorama at a literary festival in Kolkata before coming to New Delhi.
The troupe’s three months of strenuous rehearsals went in vain, as they were barred from performing at one of Asia’s biggest theatre festivals.
“I think we have succeeded,” Rauf Afridi, one of the main actors in the play told The Express Tribune.
“We were willing to perform under all circumstances, but their government [dropped] the curtain… we are still ready to perform.”
Tour leader and cast member, Akbar Islam, had gotten the set designed and wardrobe checked a night before the performance, and was shocked by the sudden announcement.
“The younger actors are severely disappointed, and rightly so, they all worked very hard for this,” Islam said.
Zain Ahmed, the faculty member representing the 26-member cast in India, was disheartened by the cancellation on the eleventh hour.
“It is unfortunate that the state is unwilling to promote cultural activities,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune over a telephonic conversation.
“Performances can be an effective device to defuse tensions [in the region] but [as] always, culture and sports were the first to suffer.”
Napa’s senior faculty member and veteran actor Rahat Kazmi expressed his disappointment. “We are supposed to promote peace, equality and tolerance, but in return the hatred is in bad taste, I am extremely disappointed. I hope the political shenanigans don’t affect the arts &culture scene in the future,” Kazmi said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2013.