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    With Ali J premiering here, we highlight a few plays that stirred debates

    Chennai sees at least one play staged every weekend, and as V Balakrishnan of Theatre Nisha puts it, most of them are politically correct. “I know a couple of Tamil plays like Balloon that have encouraged debate, but English theatre is very politically right. Because of heavy opposition, they did not get The Vagina Monologues to Chennai,” admits the theatre director. But now we have Evam’s 29th play, Ali J, scheduled to be staged at Alliance Francaise next week. According to Karthik Kumar, the play narrates Ali’s love story.

    ‘‘It also tracks the life of Muhammad Ali Jinnah — thus the ‘J’ in the name — and throws light on the Partition and the need for a separate nation,” says Kumar, who essays Ali. “We were questioned as to why we are talking about Jinnah,” he says. However, despite opposition in Bangalore, the play was staged with police protection. Ramakrishnan, of The Madras Players recalls, other plays that have sparked controversy.

    Anna Weiss: The Madras Players produced Anna Weiss, a play about a daughter sexually assaulted by her father. “Ten years ago when we showcased this play, it left the audience in shock. For the first time, the audience demanded an interaction after the play.”

    Thaneer Thaneer: Again by The Madras Players, this play went to court back in 1980 and had to be cleared to be performed.  ‘‘When Komal Swaminathan wrote Thaneer Thaneer, it was stopped by the government.’’

    Acid: Acid is about a TV journalist who was attacked with the chemical. “Five years ago, acid attacks on girls were on a high. They wanted us to change the name of the play. We had a tough time getting it approved by the police.”

    Ali J will be staged at Alliance Francaise on March 9. Tickets, `400 onwards, on indianstage.in

    – Mrinalini Sundar


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