A controversial play about a nun who gives birth to a child premiered at a Mumbai auditorium amid tight security on Monday despite calls for a ban from Christian groups, though authorities in Hyderabad cancelled a production of the theatre piece following protests.
Organisations including the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) objected to the use of the phrase “immaculate conception” in the advertisements for Agnes of God, an adaptation of American playwright John Pielmeier’s drama of the same name which was made into a film starring Jane Fonda in 1985.
Hours ahead of the staging in Mumbai, Maharashtra’s minority affairs minister Eknath Khadse told Kaizaad Kotwal, the play’s director, and community groups that the performance would be filmed to check for objectionable content.
“If the Catholic Secular Forum wants the show banned, it is free to move court,” he said. “We cannot ban the play which has been approved by the Censor (Board).”
The CSF had lodged a protest against the play, but had made it clear that it would not stonewall the performance.
“We have received complaints from nuns because the use of the words (‘immaculate conception’) belittles them,” said Judith Monteiro, secretary of the Association of Concerned Catholics, who said they would now try to meet the chief minister over the issue.
Kotwal, his lawyer Sujay Kantawala and actor Dolly Thakore represented the other side at the meeting.
“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,” the director said.
A production of Agnes of God which was to be staged in Hyderabad on October 9 and 10, however, has been called off after the Catholic Secular Forum wrote a letter to authorities in protest.
“We cancelled the play after receiving a call from the government to not stage it, even though we had permitted them in the past,” said R Subrahmanyam, deputy administrative officer at the city’s BM Birla auditorium. “We have refunded the money to the producer.”