Agnes of God, the play about a catholic nun who has a baby and claims immaculate conception, is set to open at the NCPA, Nariman Point, on Monday evening with both organisers and opponents looking to get the state government to step in on their side.
Catholic groups have sought a meeting with the state minister for minority affairs, Eknath Khadse, on Monday to ask the government to ban shows; the play’s director, Kaizaad Kotwal, and his lawyer also plan to be at the meeting to ensure there are no disruptions.
The NCPA said that the play had received a certificate from the censor board and the first show would be at 7.30 pm with police security in place. “We are very clear about having the play tomorrow. However, it will be a free show and we do not intend to offend anybody’s feelings,” said KN Santook, director of NCPA.
Catholic groups have claimed the play defames the clergy who take a vow of celibacy. “We are going to call for a complete ban as liberalism can be no excuse for tarnishing somebody’s image,” said an official from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI)
“There were many rumours that the show has been called off, which has absolutely no truth in it,” said Kotwal. “We will meet the minister and make our claim too.”
His lawyer explained that a meeting with both groups being there was imperative. “We do not want any interruptions in the evening and hence the dialogue is really important,” said Sujay Kantawala, the director’s lawyer.
The play’s producers said shows had been planned in Hyderabad, Kerala and abroad. “We will plan the schedule for more shows in the city after taking a look at Monday’s scene,” said Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, who plays the main character in the play.
The play has stirred a debate and not all Catholics are for a ban. “We are living in a new age with time and need to encourage liberalism,” said Joseph Pereira, a resident of Colaba. However, Amy Fernandez, a resident of Bandra, disagreed. “Artistic license or freedom cannot be allowed to disturb public order or create unrest,” she said.
The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), the group which first called for a ban, was uncertain about being able to meet the minister. “Other Catholic groups who are protesting against the play will surely go but we are not sure and are still trying to seek an appointment with the minister,” said Joseph Dias, the general secretary of CSF.