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Delhi street play row: 'Banning things has become popular'

March 26, 2015 15:10 IST

A Delhi University college play on religious intolerance is caught up in a controversy as the ABVP-run students' union runs pillar-to-post to get it banned for reported ‘anti-Hindu’ content. Watch it at least once before forming an opinion -- that's all that play director Guneet Singh has to say.

Third-year Political Science student at SGTB Khalsa College, New Delhi, Guneet Singh's 25-minute street play Welcome to the Machine is creating a storm of sorts in Delhi University.

The Delhi University Students’ Union -- currently managed by the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad -- has come out all guns blazing against the play for its reported "anti-Hindu' content and has accusing it of being a "fake drama on Hindu and Hinduism".

Even as the college authorities and DUSU continue dialogue to resolve the issue, Guneet -- president of his college’s theatre society, Ankur -- tells contributor Upasna Pandey that he hopes that all university students get to see his play before they form any opinion on it.

What is the core theme of the play Welcome to the Machine and how did you plan to write this?

We needed a topic for a play and we were impressed by Haider, a film that revolves around the disturbed law and order condition in Jammu and Kashmir. But we wanted to focus on something, which we would be able to relate to in Delhi. So we picked up the theme of communal fascism and polarisation of votes.

Where have you and your group been able to perform the play before the DUSU objected to it?

The play has been performed at the National School of Drama, and some Delhi University colleges like Ramjas, Kirori Mal, Hindu and it was slated for performance at the Jamia Hamdard University, College of Vocational Studies and Jesus and Mary College. But now we don’t know when the deadlock will be resolved. We are hopeful that the college authorities and the DUSU can resolve this soon.

Can you talk in detail about the contents of the play?

I cannot talk in detail about the contents of the play, as it is being discussed and I don’t want to disturb the process.

Why the title Welcome to the machine?

The play revolves around the theme that there is a fascist plan to usher everyone into one way of becoming a ‘proper’ patriot or bhakt, which needs to be questioned in a country which is multi-cultural and diverse. This is also a song by Pink Floyd, which we have used as an inspiration.

What is your view on the recent episodes of ban on creative works in the country?

It looks like banning things has become a famous or popular phenomenon. It is just like taking a selfie which is used more for selling. So once something is banned, people get curious and want to know what it is all about and know more about it. Our stand is that we should be allowed to perform the play and those who are objecting to it should at least see it once before they form an opinion.

How has your family reacted to the controversy?

They are, of course, reacting like any other Indian family. They are worried and protective about me. They are advising that I stay away from the controversy. But I have written this play and I have to participate as required for resolving this. I represent the viewpoint of the play.

You are a student of political science. What is your learning from this experience? What are your plans for the future?

I am quite moved by this controversy and want to study law after my graduation with a focus on human rights laws.

Upasna Pandey in New Delhi