Religion has been a sensitive subject in our country, one that most people are reluctant to touch as it might trigger off a storm. The plight of people like MF Hussain, Salman Rusdie and Taslima Nasreen puts forth a very intimidating picture of religious intolerance in India and the consequences arising from it.
Recently, Kaizad Kotwal found himself in the eye of the storm, as he managed to ruffle a few feathers with his play Agnes of God . The play saw widespread protests from Catholic religious organisations, and since, it’s India, a quick demand for a ban.
The premier on Monday night was met with cheers and continuing protests. Let’s take a look at what it’s all about.
Kaizad Kotwal’s Agnes of God is an adaptation of a 1982 play by John Pielmeier which claims to have been based on true events.
The title of the play is a pun on the term Agnus De i which means Lamb of God, and the play was also adapted into a 1985 film of the same name, starring Jane Fonda.
The play tells the story of a nun who gives birth, claiming that she is still a virgin, a psychiatrist who examines her and the mother superior of the convent.
The current adaptation is directed by Kaizad Kotwal, and it also stars his mother Mahabano Mody-Kotwal who also produced The Vagina Monologues .
The play which deals with moral and spiritual issues faced by women has run into trouble with organisations like the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).
The religious organisations took offence and demanded a ban on what they saw as a “misrepresentation of Christian beliefs”, which wrongfully portrayed priests and nuns, hence “hurting religious sentiments”.
The General Secretary of CSF Said, “The play has been made by a group whose earlier work was Vagina Monologues . They are not Christians and they did not involve or consult the Church. The play questions the sacrifice of nuns.”
The producers on the other hand denied allegations of attacking Christianity and told The Indian Express, “It’s a nuanced piece that talks about spirituality and faith among other things.”
Facing threats of arrest, imprisonment, harm to body and property for staging play AGNES OF GOD. Sophia show on Oct 04 SHUT DOWN. @BDUTT— KAIZAAD KOTWAL (@KAIZAADKOTWAL) September 30, 2015
Kotwal claimed to receive threat leading to the show’s original premiere on October 4 being cancelled, but the show premiered at NCPA on October 5 after receiving a certificate from the censor board.
Security at the premiere | Source: PTI
The premiere took place after a meeting between Kotwal, Maharashtra Minister of Minority Affairs Eknath Khadse and CSF’s Joseph Dias, who promised not to obstruct the premiere.
Those who gave long sermons on Freedom of Speech & expression when PK released have gone into hibernation when asked about ‘Agnes of God’!— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) October 3, 2015
The controversy marked another instance of art being threatened by fanaticism and invited responses from celebrities on Twitter.
I stand in solidarity with Mahbanoo and Kaizad Kotwal.The play Agnes of God has been duly certified period.— Azmi Shabana (@AzmiShabana) October 4, 2015