The first show of the controversial play “Agnes Of God” will be held as scheduled in Mumbai on Monday evening despite protests from Catholic groups though it will be filmed by authorities to ascertain if it has any objectionable content.
Maharashtra’s minority affairs minister Eknath Khadse spoke about the decision to film the play, being staged at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, during a meeting with community groups and Kaizaad Kotwal, the play’s director, at his residence on Monday morning.
The play has already received certification from the Censor Board and community groups can approach court or the censors if they think it offends religious sensibilities, Khadse said.
The state government has no role to play in the matter because the Censor Board, an autonomous body, has given approval to the director, he said. “So both parties should go to court and make their claims,” he said.
Catholic groups have objected to the use of the phrase “immaculate conception” in advertisements for the play.
“We have received complaints from nuns because the use of the words belittles them,” said Judith Monteiro, secretary of the Association of Concerned Catholics. She said the Catholic groups intended to meet the chief minister on the issue.
“Agnes Of God”, about a young nun who gives birth and claims the baby was the result of a virgin conception, has often attracted the ire of the church. Catholic groups have criticised both the play and the 1985 Hollywood film based on it.
Kotwal, his lawyer Sujay Kantawala and actor Dolly Thakore represented the other side at the meeting with Khadse.
“It is very offending that certain groups are calling for our arrest but irrespective of that, we will carry on as we have no hidden agenda,” said Kotwal.
Thakore said: “It is very depressing to see everybody opposing the concept of liberalism when there is no intention to hurt any sentiments.”
The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), which first called for a ban on the play, has asked for a certified copy of the video of the play and Khadse agreed.
“We will take a look at the copy and there will be a government representative at the staging today, after which we will go to court,” said Joseph Dias, general secretary of the CSF.
“The play is offensive and we can file a complaint under section 295A (of the Indian Penal Code for hurting religious sentiments),” said advocate Joseph Sodder, one of the delegates at the meeting.
“Due process has to be followed. If there are any grievances, they will have to prove it in court,” said Kantawala.