Library backs out from staging drama Kakkukali, director seeks options

The nuns have been rendering selfless service to society for centuries and the play was an insult to them.
A scene from the play Kakkukali
A scene from the play Kakkukali

KOCHI: Encountering stiff resistance from the Christian community, Punnapra Paravur Public Library has decided to discontinue staging the controversial drama Kakkukali. The library which provides a platform for progressive thought and cultural activities issued a statement announcing its decision to stop staging the play considering the sentiments of the Christian community.

Meanwhile, Job Madathil, the director of the play, said the new management of the library took the decision unilaterally without consulting the theatre group. He said the group wants to continue staging the play and efforts are on to garner support from other theatre groups.

Welcoming the decision, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council deputy secretary general Fr Jacob Palakkappilly said the Christian community’s protest was not against the theatre group but the biased stand of political parties.

“We had demanded to ban the play as it hurts the sentiments of the Christian community. The nuns have been rendering selfless service to society for centuries and the play was an insult to them. While the politicians tried to support the drama in the name of freedom of expression, they were unanimous in demanding a ban on the movie ‘The Kerala Story’. We were pained by this doublespeak. 

These blind vote bank politics is a threat to the secular fabric of society,” he said. Refuting claims that the KCBC had honoured writer Francis Noronha, the author of Kakkukali, with the KCBC literary award in 2019, Fr Palakkappilly said the award was for his contribution to literature and not for the particular story.
“We decided to facilitate staging the play based on a contract with Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi,” said Paravur Public Library vice president P C Sumesh, who is also secretary of Neythal Nataka Sangham, the theatre wing of the library.

“We had a contract with Sangeetha Nataka Akademi to stage the play at three venues. As the drama evoked a good response from the public and we incurred a financial burden, the library management agreed to the director’s request to continue staging the play. Meanwhile, the director associated with the Sakthi theatre group in Abu Dhabi to participate in a drama competition. However, a Catholic group approached the UAE administration and the play was disqualified,” said Sumesh.

According to him, the Kerala Catholic Youth Movement staged a protest against the drama at Guruvayur Sargotsavam after which there was a slew of protests. 

“The drama has been staged at 18 venues during the past one year. As the protest intensified, we convened a meeting of library members and it was decided to stop staging the play. Meanwhile, a petition was filed in the High Court against us. We don’t have the financial background to fight the case. Besides, the drama was alienating a community from the library. The director was also present in the meeting that decided to stop staging the play. However, we allowed them to perform at a couple of venues after the meeting as the theatre group had already signed an agreement,” said Sumesh.

However, director Job Madathil said that the library management did not convey the decision to stop staging the play. “The office-bearers of the library deliver lectures on freedom of expression and progressive thought. The drama doesn’t criticise Christianity or defame Christian asceticism. It discusses the denial of fundamental rights to the nuns by a patriarchal clergy,” he said.

“The Paravur Public Library is a progressive cultural organisation and it is not a theatre group. They have not conveyed any reason for withdrawing support to the theatre performance,” said author Francis Noronha.

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The New Indian Express