Controversial play 'Kitab' dropped from Kerala school art festival

Controversial play 'Kitab' dropped from Kerala school art festival
Students performing 'Kitab' on stage.

Kozhikode: It seems the recent row kicked up by the staging of 'Kitab' , which had secured the first prize at a district-level event, won't end soon as it has been dropped from the competitive event at the ongoing state school art festival. The drama was rated the best at the Kozhikode revenue district school art festival recently, but it is the second-prize winning play 'Elippetti' that will be vying for laurels at the state event that started in Alappuzha on Friday.

'Kitab' , directed by Rafeeq Mangalassery, was selected initially for the pan-Kerala competition, but the Memunda Higher Secondary School in rural Kozhikode, which had staged it, has decided not to send its team after a few religious organisations criticised a few references in it.

“Soon after the drama 'Kitab', won prizes for best drama as well as the best actor (female), there were criticism from various corners. We find that certain references in the drama have hurt a particular community. However, it was not intentional. We understand the need to maintain the democratic and secular values in an educational institution and hence decided not to perform the same drama in future,” stated principal Krishnadas P K and headmaster Remesan T V.

The non-staging of Rafeeq's drama in the state festival would be like doing injustice for the children who performed in it, said Sivadas Poyilkavu, the director of 'Elippetti' which was staged by Thiruvangoor Higher Secondary School at the district event. It had bagged second prize behind 'Kitab' then.

“I feel personally disturbed, when my drama is again dragged into a controversy over 'Kitab'. This year, two teams from other districts – Malappuram and Wayanad – are also staging 'Elippetti'. So, this would be the third team, once Kozhikode also stages it. Denying chance to the students who bagged first position in the district is injustice. Those 10 students were qualified to compete. My children have enjoyed staging it in the maximum in the past one year. We all wish that a new play should be staged. Rafeeq also knows that how much I supported and want to see it staged in Alappuzha,” Sivadas said.

The parents of students have meanwhile approached the High Court claiming their children will lose a chance to compete at the state level even after getting qualified. The decision of the court is crucial since the event has already started.

Memunda school had represented the district for the past 17 years and won top prizes at the state level too.

Meanwhile, many activists and writers including K Satchidanandan and S Hareesh voiced their opposition against not letting the staging of 'Kitab'at the state festival. In a joint statement, they condemned the interference of religious organisations on reformative values and freedom of expression.

Unni R, the play's original writer, had disowned the drama, saying his ideas were distorted and the school play portrayed a particular community in bad light.

Rafeeq had complained hat even those who raised voice for Hareesh's 'Meesha' are silent on the 'Kitab' row. 'Meesha' is a controversial novel that had to be withdrawn from a leading Malayalam weekly after protests.

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