Ban on 100-year-old play raises questions in AP

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By Narendra Puppala

Hyderabad, Jan 23 (SocialNews.XYZ) The Andhra Pradesh government’s ban on ‘Chintamani’, a Telugu-language play that has been around since 1920, has raised the art and culture fraternity hedgehogs in the state. The play scripted by pre-independence era social crusader Kallakuri Narayana Rao which deals with the evils of prostitution, only celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.


Normally, the play is performed regularly throughout the year at village and temple fairs, and other social events, across Andhra Pradesh. While the play revolves around the central character of Chintamani, a prostitute who attains salvation through repentance, it is the character of Subbi Setti, a Bania or merchant community member who descends into abject poverty, is at the center of the current controversy.

The state government’s decision to ban ‘Chintamani’ had come following performances by the Arya Vysya community in Andhra Pradesh. The Telugu merchant community, known as ‘Banias’ in northern India, have long railed against the play in which the character of Subbi Setty is portrayed in an extremely poor light.

The restraining order was issued on January 17, following the latest attempt by the Arya Vysya community, in the form of a memorandum submitted to the state government about four months ago. Observers said the fact that Endowment Department Minister Vellampalli Srinivas, who is also from the community, helped things move quickly.

Predictably, the Arya Vysya community rejoices over the banning of the play. Community representatives expressed their gratitude to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

“The depiction of ‘Subbi Setti’ in the play is very reprehensible and humiliating. Showing him as ugly and using charcoal as makeup to darken his complexion and make him the butt of lewd jokes. It was intolerable for the Aryas Vysyas,” said Ambica Krishna, a prominent community member, former lawmaker and former chairman of the AP Film Development Corporation.

The real problem, however, does not lie with the playwright or the original script of “Chintamani”.

“The play was written by Kallakuri Narayana Rao garu to highlight the evils of bad company, in this case a prostitute. There is nothing wrong with the language used by the author in the original play. But in Over the years, local theater groups have begun to change the situations and the language of the play, in an attempt to appeal to the feelings of the masses.It is the fault of these actors and the local theater groups who continue to manipulating the script and going overboard by writing saucy dialogues according to their whims and fancies to attract more people,” said Golla Narayana, President of Andhra Arts Academy, a cultural organization established to spread independence fervor in British India.

The past few days have seen several arts and cultural organizations unite to voice their protest against the ‘Chintamani’ ban. Their argument is that the play is a reflection of the social mores of the time when it was originally written. The government’s decision to ban the play is seen as too extreme a measure.

“If any part of the play is objectionable, or if someone makes changes to it, you can warn those people. But a blanket ban is untenable, especially since the play gives us insight into the social ills of its time. “, says S Anil Kumar. , Secretary, Jana Natya Mandali, Andhra Pradesh Unit.

He points out that in 2002, when the community asked for the play to be banned, the High Court ruled in favor of the play after going through the original script.

However, the Arya Vysya community is convinced that a general ban on staging the play is the only solution. “It is impossible to monitor the plays that are staged in the villages, and even in the alleys of the towns and cities. We never know when and where a play is staged. It will have to be filmed and then followed, which which is not practical for A ban is the ideal solution,” says Ambica Krishna.

Meanwhile, concerns are being raised about the possible precedents the ban sets to muzzle all sorts of creative expression in the days to come.

“Today the ban is because one community finds it objectionable. Tomorrow another community might oppose another play or it might be a political party criticizing a play. This decision to ban a room leaves the door open to future problems.” said G Narayana.

Considering that the play survived several banning attempts over the years, the urgency with which the state government led by Jagan Mohan Reddy banned the play by releasing it through the administration department general raised eyebrows.

Observers believe the ban may be the ruling party’s ploy to curry favor with the community which, though relatively small in number, carries financial clout.

While making it clear that the Arya Vysyas are well within their rights to protest the caricature of their community, the culture champions blame the state government for arbitrarily settling a very important issue.

Source: IANS

Ban on 100-year-old play raises questions in AP

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