The new restrictions imposed by organisers of ‘Firodiya Karandak’, a popular inter-collegiate drama competition, have received mixed reactions from members of the city’s theatre community. The competition organisers recently barred participants from putting up plays on ‘sensitive topics’ such as Article 370, Babri Masjid, Hindu-Muslim relations and caste conflict.
While some felt that the move was a preventive one, considering the current political environment, other members of the theatre community said such a restriction imposes boundaries on the creativity of students.
Noted playwright and theatre director Satish Alekar said, “Firodiya Karandak is one of the most renowned drama competitions, which has been running for over 40 years. There are multiple aspects to the competition… the participants need to incorporate visual arts, acting, lights, music and dance in their performances. It is a novel competition and one should take pride in that. It is very sad. The competition has gone on for so long without any political hiccups. If the participating students, who are above 18, can choose the government by voting, I believe that they are mature enough to understand what is happening around them. Performing arts have always been a reflection of society and if this is what is happening in society, that is what they will present on the stage.”
Theatre artist Pradeep Vaidya had a similar viewpoint. “One can always write and perform plays which do not even utter a word of what is banned and still address the same issues up front. The thinking by the organisers is poor and linear. If you decide to break the mirror because it shows your reflection, every broken piece of the mirror will still reflect you. Any such ban can be dealt with by creative people in a very confident and cool way,” he said.
Arundhati Aagashe, a participant from Fergusson College, Pune, believes that the repetitive themes had set a monotonous tone in the festival. “I think the move was to cut the monotony of the themes. But this should not cut the freedom of expression,” she said.
Shantanu Ghule, winner of the 2016 edition of the drama competition, defended the organisers’ decision. “Private competitions do have a set rules and one just needs to abide by them. I think it is just a preventive move from the organisers and it is justified, taking into consideration the recent atmosphere,” he said.
Niranjan Pendanekar, principal scientist at Tata Research Development and Design Centre in Pune, pointed out, “Last year, five of the nine qualifying skits were on Hindu-Muslim dynamics… this issue should have been dealt with through workshops and discussions between both parties, instead of placing this blatant rule. I understand that many pick up these themes to get extra mileage… but let us not allow the competition culture to overshadow the creativity.”
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