The National School of Drama had issued a notice to Suveeran, demanding a clarification for including an act of nudity in his play.

Never heard of censorship in plays Director Suveeran defends nudity in his play
news Controversy Friday, February 28, 2020 - 16:19

Controversy erupted in the world of theatre when the National School of Drama (NSD) recently asked for an explanation from director Suveeran, the best feature film National awardee for Byari (2011), for including an act of nudity in his play staged at a festival in Puducherry.

The play ‘Bhaskara Pattelarum Thommiyude Jeevithavum’ was staged at the Bharat Rang Mahotsavam (BRM) International Theatre Festival of India 2020 in Puducherry on February 12. The play is based on a novel Bhaskara Pattelarum Ente Jeevithavum by Paul Zachariah. The story is about Thommy, a migrant labourer, who has become an obedient slave of his oppressive employer. The play by Suveeran had recently gathered acclaim at the Kerala International Theatre Festival.

"There was a nude scene in the play. You may be aware that the Chairperson of the NSD Society and many other dignitaries were present on that day. Some of them had objections to the scene, which they communicated to the undersigned verbally," the notice from NSD says.

"Your play had been selected by a two-tier selection process out of hundreds of applicants. As per the law, nudity and obscenity is banned in public performances. It is also verified from the DVD submitted by you while applying for BRM. There was no such scene of nudity in the said DVD," says the NSD letter.

"In view of this, it is clear a breach of agreement by including an act of nudity in the play held on 12th February at Puducherry without prior information and approval of NSD authority," the NSD said.

Responding to the allegation, Suveeran said he, as a director, personally believed that if nudity can enhance the total feel of the play it can even be used in public staging. He added that the DVD submitted to the NSD was for quality analysis, and that the play is not a mechanical imitation of the video documentation of its first performance.

"How can one say that the rules one should observe in public places are applicable in art as well? It is something a director and artist like me can never comprehend. The play was staged in a closed place before a group of invited guests. Is the place akin to a public place?” Suveeran told PTI.

The director said he has never ever heard of censorship in plays.

"The organic nature of plays give the director freedom to intervene and improve the performance in each ensuing stage," he said.

"The protagonist of the play I directed is a slave who is almost always naked in the play. He is clad in a torn dhoti which he uses to cover his nudity. At times the torn cloth slips from his hands and exposes his nudity for a while. This culminates in the final scene in which he runs away totally naked," Suveeran said in his response to NSD's charge.

Suveeran, who is an NSD alumnus himself, told TOI it was shame one would have to explain these things to an institution that had a legacy of promoting experimental plays in and outside India.

Writer Paul Zacharia and former Kerala Culture Minister M A Baby came out in support of Suveeran.

"By including the act of nudity of the character Thommy in the play, the director could do justice to the character in my novella," Zacharia told PTI.

Thommy is a Christian migrant labourer from Kerala who is an obedient slave of his tyrannical landlord Bhaskara Pattelar in the novella.

Baby slammed the NSD for making unnecessary controversy over the issue, saying the current authorities of the NSD lacked sense of Indian culture.

"The deficit of culture is what gets reflected in this kind of responses from National School of Drama. I consider such responses obscene," Baby told PTI.

Criticising the NSD on the issue, Baby said Suveeran's work of art is "the theatre translation of a great literary piece of Zachariah, which was already made into a great film by Adoor Gopalakrishnan with the name Vidheyan."

"Such explorations are what are required in our society today," said Baby, a politburo member of the CPI(M).

(With PTI inputs)