New Delhi, Jan. 18: The National School of Drama has turned away two Pakistani theatre groups from its annual festival, evoking angry reactions from the theatre community.
The NSD announced on Thursday that Pakistani plays Mantorama and Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh were being cancelled because of “unavoidable circumstances”.
Unofficially, NSD sources said there were fears of protest if the plays were staged and the culture ministry had ordered that both should be pulled. At the Jaipur edition of NSD’s festival, the staging of Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh had to be cancelled on Wednesday after protests.
Delhi police, however, claimed they had no intelligence on any threat to the venue.
“We have sent no advisory to the National School of Drama. Nor do we have any intelligence input about any group planning to create trouble on the ground,” said Delhi police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat.
Culture ministry officials and secretary Sangita Gairola were unavailable for comment.
Both plays are based on the life of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, whose birth centenary is being celebrated in India and Pakistan. Mantorama is being performed by the National Academy of Performing Arts Repertory Company, Karachi, and Gustakh by Ajoka.
The theatre fraternity has reacted angrily to the NSD move. “It is entirely unjustified, the performance should have happened. I am not aware on what basis the decision was taken. As far as I have heard, there was no threat to the venue or the troupe,” said Sudhanva Deshpande of Jana Natya Manch.
“Whatever happened on the border is highly condemnable. But we cannot bring jingoism onto our stage. This was the time when we should have talked and not turned away people. If the government felt there was a threat, they should have provided security,” said N.K. Sharma, the founding director of Act One.
Sharma said members of both troupes were disappointed. “Most of them are young and this was to be their first performance in India. They had tears in their eyes when this announcement was made,” he said.
NSD director Anuradha Kapur and chairperson Amal Allana could not be reached for comment.