'Kithab' was presented by students of Balasangam, a children's organisation, in Alappuzha.

Kerala play withdrawn after protests by Muslim groups finds new stage and actors
news Controversy Sunday, December 16, 2018 - 20:30

Kithab, the Malayalam play that has been at the heart of a controversy and withdrawn from the school youth festival following protests by Muslim groups, is now back on stage, albeit not by the same performers. The play was presented by students at Balasangam district meet in Alappuzha on Saturday. Balasangam is one of the largest children’s organisations in the state, aimed at raising children sans any discriminatory ideas based on religion, caste, colour or region.

Confirming this, Sivaprasad, district level secretary, told TNM, â€śYes, Kithab was staged during the kala jaada (art march) called Venalthumbikal. We took permission from the original director of the play, Rafeeq Mangalasseri. It was performed by the children of Balasangam."

Ever since the play was staged at the Memunda Higher Secondary School, Kozhikode, various Muslim groups, including the SDPI, protested against it. Kithab tells the story of a girl who dreams to call out the azan (Islamic call to worship) like her father, a muezzin. The SDPI had staged a protest, demanding the play be withdrawn for hurting religious sentiments. The Muslim Students Federation (MSF), too, had given a complaint to the District Education Officer.

Following this, Kithab, which won awards at the sub-district level, was withdrawn from the school youth festival. The Memunda School had a history of presenting unique themes at school festivals and being noticed for it.

Sivaprasad says that they decided to stage the play since it addressed a social issue like gender discrimination. Anandalakshmy, the district president of Balasangam, said that it was to support the idea of freedom of expression. “We decided to stage the play to express solidarity with those who had staged the play and then could not,” says Anandalakshmy, who also plays a part in Kithab.

The play ended with cheers and shouts of "azaadi" from the audience.

Kithab is a humorous portrayal of a Muslim household, where the girl who wishes to call out the azan sings and dances with her friends and mischievously steals the fish fry her mother cooks for the men in the house. One day she expresses her desire to call out the azan. Her father locks her so she would not perform in a play (play within the play) again. He tells her she wouldn’t reach heaven if she does these things. “If I’d lose entry to heaven because I sing and dance, then I don’t want that heaven,” she says. The father is ready to kill the girl when she disobeys him and goes to do the school play. But then, the mother reminds him that he is not just the muezzin but also the father of the girl. He then lets her call out the azan. Kithab ends with the girl calling out the azan while the others prayed. 

Watch the full play staged in Alappuzha here:

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