India: Controversy over State Censor Board for Theatre

8 February 2016


Theatre playwrights and performers in Gujarat and Maharashtra are questioning and condemning the State Censor Board for Theatre for having suggested 19 cuts in a Marathi play entitled ‘Jai Bhim, Jai Bharat’.

The board which certifies theatre scripts as fit for public consumption asked playwright Jandardan Jadhav to change ‘Khairlanji’ to ‘Vairanjli’, ‘kutra’ (dog) to ‘shwan’, ‘Mahar’ (a caste) to ‘Dalit’, ‘Ramabai Nagar’ to ‘Mirabai Nagar’, ‘Hindutva vadi’ to ‘those with power’, among other changes. Taking objection to the reference to Dalit Panther poet Namdeo Dhasal’s poem ‘Gandu Bagicha’ in the play, the censor board asked Jadhav to remove it altogether.

According to newspaper The Hindu, Gujarat and Maharashtra – the erstwhile Bombay province in pre-Independence India – is the only place in all of India that still has a Censor Board for Theatre. Any performance to be held on stage in Gujarat and Maharashtra has to be certified by it. The board members read on average 20 different scripts that come for approval every month.

The controversy has triggered a public debate on relevance of the Maharashtra Rangbhoomi Parinirikshan Mandal, as the board is officially known. Playwrights and performers are asking if a body to scrutinise scripts of live performances is really required.

Sunil Shanbag, a prominent theatre artist, said, “Often, the board clears the English script but opposes its Hindi version or any other Indian language translation, fearing the audience of the translated script may get offended.”

Photo on top of this page by Vivek Bendre, published in The Hindu. The image caption says: “The Censor Board for Theatre works out of this dilapidated building at Nariman Point.”


» The Hindu – 5 February 2016:
Theatre censorship is unkindest cut, say miffed artists

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