A controversial play titled ‘Jogakhichuri,’ focusing on issues in the mid-day meal scheme for school children, was performed as a street act in central Kolkata, where government employees were protesting for a higher dearness allowance (DA). The play drew attention to the irregularities in the scheme. However, a theatre group from Nadia district alleged that the government withdrew permission for their festival in a hall after they staged the play.
The theatre group, Natyajan, claimed that the cancellation happened right after their performance, which highlighted contemporary issues such as the mid-day meal and school education. They had planned to showcase six plays by renowned director Debesh Chattopadhyay.
Theatre Group’s Event Cancelled Due to Clash with Local Fair
The group had sold tickets worth over a lakh rupees and put up hoardings. The municipality informed them via email that their booking at Ritwik Bhawan auditorium from November 23 to 26 had to be canceled due to a government-affiliated event, mentioning the deposit money would be refunded.
The chairman of Kalyani municipality, Nilimesh Roychoudhury, denied political motives, stating that the cancellation was due to local self-help groups organizing an annual fair at the auditorium. He clarified that such cancellations happen if something more important arises, and prior intimation is given to those booking the venue.
Theatre Community Defends Freedom of Expression Amidst Political Controversy
This incident has sparked reactions from the theatre community. Sarit Chakraborty, secretary of Paschimbanga Ganashanskrity Parishad, emphasized that theatre serves as a platform to present reality and question government actions. Veteran actor Pradip Bhattacharya pointed out the importance of freedom of expression, stating that even historical dictators couldn’t suppress it.
The BJP supported the protest for a higher DA, while Bengal BJP chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya argued that a theatre group couldn’t expect to stage anti-government plays in a government-owned venue. The situation highlights the ongoing struggle between artistic freedom and political constraints.