Read: Amol Palekar’s essay on censorship makes a blistering case for the freedom of expression


‘An intelligent, culturally aware, aesthetically evolved citizenry must take an uncompromising stance against bigotry and thought control.’

Plays are pre-censored in Maharashtra and scripts have to be passed before they can be staged – a necessary nuisance that directors , writers and producers have been facing for years. Filmmaker, actor and playwright Amol Palekar has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against this pre-censorship, which is carried out by the Maharashtra State Performance Scrutiny Board. Arguing that the freedom of speech and expression is curbed due to pre-censorship, Palekar stated in his petition that “As a result, the petitioner has not been able to appreciate the play in its original form.” In an older essay titled Imprisoning Minds, which was translated by Paritosh Joshi and first carried on the website Indian Cultural Forum, Palekar warns of the larger perils of censorship: “If we want to have a sun rise every day as was shone over the land of Gup, the time to decide is high, and that is a certainty.”

August 29, 1970: The Maharashtra Theatrical Performances Examination Board (MTPEB) banned Vijay Tendulkar’s play Gidhade (The Vultures), contending that its realistic portrayal of perverted socio-familial complications was unsuitable for a public performance. An extended battle led by the producer, Satyadev Dubey, and the director, Shriram Lagoo, resulted in the play being certified for release after a few token cuts. With a stroke of satirical genius, the play, on its release, began with the following deadpan announcement: “In compliance with the objection from the Censor Board, the red stain on the rear of her sari of a particular female character who leaves the stage back to the audience, will henceforth be blue in colour.” The show began to uproarious laughter and thundering applause, a landmark moment in the evolution of Marathi theatre.


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