The Problem with Agitprop

In art, what works is what is real, what is executed with honesty and integrity, what is beautiful

01 June 2011
On 14 December 2008, Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, hurled his shoes at the US president George W Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.
AP PHOTO
On 14 December 2008, Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, hurled his shoes at the US president George W Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.
AP PHOTO

THEATRE DIRECTOR ARVIND GAUR'S President George W Bush is a menacing fool who wears an oversized coat and a funny wig and orders Iraqi killings with insuppressible glee. Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad to solemnise the withdrawal of American forces, he demands the puppet prime minister serve him better local food the next time he comes over. The hero, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, has been simmering with rage, and when he can take it no longer he throws his shoes at Bush, one after the other. Bush gathers himself, gives a bumbling speech about how such things don't scare him, and turns to the prime minister to say that he greatly looks forward to having good Iraqi food.

The play, The Last Salute, is based on the famous incident that took place on 14 December 2008, in Iraq. Al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, hurled his shoes at the then US president during a press conference in Baghdad.

Mahesh Bhatt, a self-confessed "fierce critic of the US foreign policy", had been watching the events in Iraq and al-Zaidi's story caught his fancy. He decided to produce a play based on the book that al-Zaidi eventually wrote on the event and the circumstances leading up to it. Bhatt chose Gaur, the man behind the Asmita theatre group and the -doyen of socially relevant theatre in Delhi, to direct it.

Snigdha Poonam  was previously  an editor at The Caravan. She has written for a number of publications, including the New York TImes, The Guardian and Granta.

Keywords: theatre The Last Salute Mahesh Bhatt Muntadhar Al-Zaidi Iraq Bush
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