LAHORE: The Lahore Arts Council’s (LAC) decision to ban all dance performances besides classical dance in commercial theatre plays has infuriated producers and artistes who believe the LAC is trying to damage their business. The decision was made to facilitate quality theatre, replied an LAC spokesperson when asked about the ban.
“How many films are made in Pakistan annually? From the handful that are made how many have songs that we can use in our plays? If we don’t have performances on Indian songs and cannot include any dance performances other than classical dance, then what are we left with,” said the chairman of Commercial Theatre Producers Association, Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ahmad.
“Some artistes and producers don’t follow certain moral standards when including dance performances in their plays, they should be banned – not the dances. Only a limited section of audience appreciates classical dance while large numbers of theatregoers have little or no interest in such performances. This ban will have major financial repercussions on commercial theatre at the LAC,” he added.
Suggesting a remedy to the vulgarity in commercial theatre, Ahmad said that the arts councils should strictly censor the scripts and not impose a ban. “The script of a play is first approved by the LAC and the Punjab Arts Council and only then is it sent to the Home Department for clearance. Writers on the panel of the arts council approve the scripts. Each script submitted mentions the dance performances included in a play. If the arts council has objections to any dance performance or dialogue, it should censor that instead of making a rule to ban all dances featuring Indian songs. As far as Indian songs are concerned, many of them are sung by Pakistani singers and are popular here. If we can allow them in the form of CDs, DVDs and screen them in our cinemas, why then can’t we include them in our stage plays,” questioned another producer who is doing plays at Alhamra, he spoke condition of anonymity.
While commercial theatre producers oppose the idea of banning dance performances in plays, artistes like Samina Ahmad and Usman Peerzada support it. “Quite often, the dance performances in these commercial theatre productions are vulgar. The performances have no theme or relevance. It’s better to ban such plays in their entirety instead of allowing them to have dances,” Usman Peerzada maintained.
Talking to The Express Tribune, the LAC spokesman said that a delegation of commercial theatre producers will soon to discuss the issue with the LAC Chairman. “The chairman would listen to their suggestions and reservations. So far the ban on the dance performances is intact,” he maintained.