Why ban Chintamani Natakam over portrayal of one character? Andhra HC asks govt

The Andhra government had banned the ‘Chintamani Natakam’ after objections from the Arya Vysya community, who said one of the characters was portrayed in poor light.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court
The Andhra Pradesh High Court
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The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Wednesday, February 2, sought to know how the state government banned a play merely because one of the characters is portrayed in a bad light. The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by YSRCP rebel MP Raghu Ramakrishna Raju against the state government's recent ban on the staging of Chintamani Natakam, a popular Telugu play staged across Andhra Pradesh since 1920.

Stating that the play has great significance in society, the petitioner's counsel contended that it is being enacted for long, and banning it constitutes a violation. The government counsel responded that the ban was imposed in response to a representation from the Arya Vysya community, claiming that the play was offensive to the community, especially the portrayal of Subbi Setty — a character from the Vysya community who is the object of ridicule. The court asked the state government how it could ban the play when there is no ban on the book on which it is based.

The court directed the government to submit the representation it had received in this regard. The hearing on the matter has been scheduled for February 8. On January 17, the Andhra Pradesh government banned Chintamani Natakam. The play scripted by pre-Independence era social activist Kallakuri Narayana Rao is centred around the story of Chintamani, a courtesan. It had celebrated its hundredth anniversary only last year.

The Arya Vysya community has been objecting to the play for several years, mainly around the comic character of Subbi Setty, who loses all his wealth owing to his vice of visiting a brothel regularly. However, the ban on the play has been opposed by the literary and art fraternity, who see it as an assault on creative freedom.

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