Playwright of banned Biblical drama passes away

Thiruvananthapuram: Malayalam playwright PM Antony, whose drama on Christ sparked a raging row in the mid-1980s resulting in its ban on religious grounds, has died, family sources said today.

Antony (61) died following a heart attack at his home in Alappuzha last night, sources said.

Antony shot to fame in 1986 when his play `Christhuvinte Aram Thirumurivu` (the sixth sacred wound of Christ), came under attack from the church in Kerala and forced the state government to ban its staging on the ground that it hurt religious sentiments.

An independent adaptation of Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis`s `Last Temptation of Christ`, Antony`s play presented the human face of Jesus rather than depicting him as the son of God.

The ban on the play also triggered a heated debate on the freedom of expression with several writers and cultural personalities condemning the government decision.

Interestingly, the ban on Antony`s play coincided with the fatwa issued by Islamic fundamentalists against Salman Rushdie`s `Satanic Verses.`

Though the ban was later relaxed the play was not staged much as it met with stiff resistance from people in many places across the state.

Known for his ultra left outlook, Antony had penned a dozen other plays, many of them big hits on the stage. Some of his plays like `Spartacus` and `Antigone` were adaptations of western classics, focusing on the theme of class conflict as a permanent feature of human history.

His end came when his troupe was engaged in the production of a new play called `American Model Arabikadalil` (Dump American model into the Arabian sea). Antony is survived by wife and four children.