[Reader-list] Quaid-e-Azam Jinxed: Ban on Artistic Freedom

anupam pachauri anupam_iase at yahoo.co.in
Tue Jun 28 13:41:31 IST 2005

Quaid-e-Azam Jinxed: Ban on Artistic Freedom

Dear Reader,

We start this article with a recollection of events
and sharing of what Asmita Art Group artists went
through the course of events in last few weeks after
deference of staging of Mr. Jinnah by Delhi Police.
This article is addressed to anyone who believes in
values of democracy.

Arvind Gaur received a script on Jinnah written by Dr.
Narendra Mohan about seven months ago. The script of
the play focuses on scriptwriter’s interpretation and
narration of an introspective dialogue of a leader who
influenced masses, had the intelligence and courage to
withstand political course of events-rise and

This script and portrayal of Jinnah intrigued Arvind
Gaur, the Director of the play ‘Mr. Jinnah’, so much
that he, along with his team of artists, started
research work and discussions on Mr. Jinnah about six
months ago. Long discussions and debates followed
among the team members which, interestingly, comprises
of people with various ideological inclinations and

As all the team members would recall, it was not
merely reading of a script but an intellectually
stimulating exercise where a person’s political life
along with his personal life--projected as well as
un-projected self --were discussed at length to find
out possibilities of interpretation and visual
representation on stage. Several meetings followed
with the scriptwriter where he shared and discussed
his viewpoint and interpretation not only with the
Director but also with the team of Mr. Jinnah.
Following this, almost two months ago, the team
started with ‘on floor’ rehearsals of ‘Mr. Jinnah’. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, as it would seem to any
individual reader, it’s a coincidence that Asmita
announced the staging of the play on Jinnah when Mr.
Advani’s statements on the leader, held responsible
for the partition and the events following 1947, have
been in hot debate since last month among various
political circles, in news columns-online as well as
in print, on various discussion forums. 

However, what is most unfortunate is how the system of
a democratic nation treated a work of art, in the name
of maintenance of law and order. You may be aware that
Asmita's play "Mr. Jinnah" has been ‘banned’ from
being staged. The ‘ban’ word is probably missing from
the official letter issued by Delhi Police South
District Office but the meaning is all the more same.
The play was "deferred" by the Delhi police on the
plea that they were not able to scrutinise the script
as it was not legible.

Asmita had applied for various clearances on May 22
about a month ago. The clearance from the traffic
police and the entertainment tax office was duly
procured, however, the south district police asked for
a script of the play, which was immediately submitted
on June 16. But, the permission was denied on June 21,
a day before the announced date of the show, without
assigning any clear reason. The police so far have not
been able to cite a proper cause for the ban, though
they agree that there is nothing objectionable in the
play. Is not allowing staging of the play an attempt
to culture policing and moral policing of the artists
of this city, the capital of a democratic nation? The
TOI editorial, June 24, also mentions,” The police
action is outrageous. It’s a sinister assault on
creative freedom”.  

On June 22, 2005 as a silent protest the writers and
dramatists, authors, artists, actors, filmmakers,
theatre lovers, and other intellectuals, historians
and general public symbolically staged a portion of
the play in front of the Lodi Road police station. The
lead actor of 'Mr. Jinnah', Mr. Susan Brar was
aggrieved due to demise of his mother the same
morning. Though it was very tough but Susan braved the
time and decided to stand by the team in joining the

On June 23 the protest was again staged by the team
where the theatre artists, writers, journalists,
students were invited by the team of Mr. Jinnah to
view a portion of rehearsal of the play. Following
this a silent candle lit protest march was carried out
from the venue of the rehearsal to the Delhi Police
Headquarters at ITO. The protesters placed the candles
outside PHQ and again staged several portions of the

However many questions crop up about the colonial type
mindset of the police and the system? We say this
because; the ordeal of the team of ‘Mr. Jinnah’ does
not end here. The team has been approaching many of
the famous auditoriums in Delhi to hold its
performance however; none of them has agreed so far to
allow booking for staging of ‘Mr. Jinnah’. As if,
Jinnah’s Djinn would start haunting the place. One
auditorium manager even asked the director to get no
objection certificate from several political and
religiously affiliated organizations!! Why does a
psychodrama need religious sanctions? And, that too,
when none of such organizations has till now raised
any sort of objections against Mr. Jinnah. It seems
two hundred years of colonial experience has converted
us into Macauley’s children for generations to come.
We are so scared of ourselves, as unsure of our
convictions and values as a democratic nation and have
become so much used to an outsider being our master
that we as a nation can not muster enough courage to
look up into eyes of our past. Is America listening?
We can be the next Iraq. You are most welcome.

The right of the citizen of a democratic nation is
being blatantly trampled by our own colonized minds.
We do not actually need an East India Company to do
that to us. It seems to be a suicidal attempt by a
nation which has declared itself to be a democratic
republic. With events like this, the issues of social
relevance in the artistic fields would soon take a
backseat and a mindless entertainment would emerge
which takes no responsibility of society and has no
concern with civil liberty. Are we ready to pay heed
to the slow poison killing democracy? It’s high time
that all of us who have even slightest concern for
India as a democratic nation and democracy and civil
liberty as a value, must come forward, hold hands
together for the freedom of expression. It is now just
not a matter of how the police treated an artistic
expression, it is also a matter of what we are doing
to ourselves by resurrecting baseless fears and
inviting any sort of self styled religious
representation to take decision for ourselves.  

Coming back to the play, like most great tragedies,
King Lear, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello
the play is more of a psychological scrutiny than a
political retrospective or a historical docudrama. The
visual treatment of the play is unconventional. The
director has chosen a visual depiction of Jinnah’s
introspection, his pain, regret and sorrow as out of
body projections. The facets of his character,
emotional outbursts are simultaneously expressed
through his body, heart, mind and soul, played by four
actors other than Jinnah himself.

Let us all join hands together so that democracy may
live and our future generations breathe not in a
colony but in a democratic nation. Let us safeguard
what is every citizen’s right to free expression in

Contact us at: 9312233561(Arvind Gaur);
9868577411(Anupam Pachauri)
Or e-mail us at arvindasmita at yahoo.com;
anupam.pachauri at gmail.com
Anyone interested in visiting us to view rehearsals of
‘Mr. Jinnah’ is most welcome. The play would soon be
staged at a University in Delhi.

This write up is submitted with a request to the
reader to forward it to friends all over the globe.
It’s just not a matter of Censorship by Police in
India. As a human, do you believe in right to free
expression? Decide for yourself and act today.

Anupam Pachauri
For Asmita

P.S. This write up is submitted with a request to the
reader to forward it to friends all over the globe.
Its just not a matter of Censorship by Police in
India. As a human, do you believe in right to free
expression? Decide for yourself and act today.


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