Setting the Stage

Abhishek Majumdar’s theatre of ideas

01 July 2021

ON 19 FEBRUARY 2019, Eidgah ke Jinnat, a Hindustani translation of Abhishek Majumdar’s play Djinns of Eidgah, was scheduled to be performed at Jaipur’s Jawahar Kala Kendra. But, before the play could begin, a group of protesters stormed the venue. The mob did not stop at protesting and seemed determined to assault the artists, forcing Majumdar and others in the troupe to flee. The show was cancelled.

On the previous night, the play had opened to a full house. The next morning, the local Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar reported that the Indian army was referred in the play to as “vahshi,” or barbaric, and that there were objectionable references to the Hindu deity Hanuman. With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections approaching, Hindu-nationalist organisations had created a charged atmosphere following the Pulwama attack the previous week, in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed. The report incited a fringe right-wing group to organise a protest and force the play’s cancellation. Overnight, Majumdar travelled back to his home in Bengaluru. A few days later, he wrote on Facebook:

I promise you; this play will be staged in theatres, roads, streets, corners, houses and markets. We the team of Eidgah Ke Jinnat, which comprises of people from at least 6 states and 9 languages, thank you for telling us, that the idea of India needs to be saved from you. Thank you for giving us purpose. Thank you for giving us in the theatre our greatest fuel. Resistance.

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    Basav Biradar Basav Biradar is an independent researcher, writer and filmmaker based in Bengaluru.  He teaches courses on Indian cinema and modern Indian theatre at Azim Premji University as a visiting faculty.