A PLAY, ‘Agnes of God’, has run into controversy after its scheduled staging at Sophia Bhabha auditorium was cancelled by the auditorium fearing a backlash from the Catholic community in Mumbai. Mahabanoo Kotwal, owner of Poor Box Production, confirmed, “We booked the hall four months ago for the play and suddenly yesterday (Monday), the management called us to inform that they are cancelling the show.”
The play, which was scheduled to be staged on October 4, is now being tagged by the city-based Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) as “anti-Catholic” and an attempt to “make fast buck at the cost of Catholic faith”.
Claiming that the content of ‘Agnes of God’ by Mumbai-born director Kaizaad Kotwal will disrupt the secular fabric, CSF has now approached Police Commissioner Ahmad Javed to register an FIR against Poor Box production and Kaizaad, and refrain them for staging the play at any other venue.
The play is an adaptation of an original play by John Pielmeier, in which the protagonist nun, Sister Agnes, gives birth to a child and claims she is a virgin. The delivery leads to a series of investigations in which psychiatrist Maratha Livingston discovers, contrary to the nun’s claims, that the latter slept with a man. The case is dragged to the court where the psychiatrist reasons that Agnes is not of sound mind. The play, a pun derived from Latin Agnus Dei (lamb of God), has also been adapted into a movie in 1985.
“We need to protest not because Catholic nuns or the Christian clergy is targeted, rather because the secular fabric of India is being threatened. India is not yet culturally or socially ready for such freedoms that West or Americas have,” said Joseph Diaz, general secretary of CSF, adding that the play “will open a pandora’s box” and cause mistrust in the religion.
“We respect freedom of speech. But from my preliminary reading of the plot, it could give ruse to scandal or speculation. We would urge them (producer) to not release the play.” said Father Nigel, spokesperson of Bombay Archdiocese, adding the play has “no spiritual learning for the community”. Some Christians have, however, welcomed the play. Brinelle D’Souza said that she had planned to watch it with a group of friends. “I am happy to join or help with any campaign against efforts to stifle speech and creative expression in the name of hurt sentiments,” she said.Director Kaizaad said he has not been approached by any organisation yet, but he will appoint a lawyer to look into the situation.