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The Blurred Lines of Artistic Freedom: Cyberthreats and the Ethical Dilemma of Artistic Representation

When did our society’s religious tolerance become so shallow that it cannot accommodate a student play promoting women’s empowerment, and when did harassment of women become a normalized and regular occurrence?

We live in a Digital world that is not all hunky dory, it comes with its drawbacks. But as a society that talks of women being the epicenter of growth, the same women are the easiest targets of online abuse and harassment. The recent events surrounding the play “Somayanam” staged as part of a wider event ‘Ezhini2k24’ to mark World Theatre Day at the Department of Performing Arts, Pondicherry University has left the nation in a state of moral and ethical disarray.

The play’s director, Pushparaj, has been suspended after the play’s controversy.

 The cyber threats and online harassment directed at the female actors involved in the play by some Political groups who tend to hurt themselves with the play’s unintended message have raised important questions about the ethical and moral principles that govern our society.  The cyber threats, including rape and death threats, directed at the female actors are a stark reminder of the pernicious nature of online abuse.

The backdrop of the event was some unintended message that hurt the empty sentiments of a political group that is so vulnerable to getting hurt that a play intended to highlight women’s empowerment hurt their religious feelings.

A stage play ‘Somayanam’ directed by Pushparaj aimed to highlight the notion of woman chastity through a collection of stories from his life experiences and incorporating the ‘therukoothu’ style of Tamil Folk culture which was nowhere angled towards religion hurt religious sentiments.

The play’s actors in the therukootu style makeup, before the play.
The stills of performers from the play, in the therukootu style drama ‘Somayanam’.

What we tend to ignore in all the facade is the plight of Women, where did we go wrong as a society?

The fact that these threats were made in response to the play’s portrayal of woman chastity highlights the need for greater awareness about the importance of artistic representation and the role it plays in shaping our society.

The incident also raises important questions about the ethical and moral principles that govern our society. The fact that the play was met with such hostility and aggression highlights the need for greater understanding and empathy towards the arts and the artists who create them.

The institution’s failure to address the issue and protect the students involved is equally concerning. The fact that the department and the university administration did not take immediate action to clarify the play’s context and protect the students involved clearly indicates their lack of commitment to the values of artistic freedom and the protection of students’ rights.

The events surrounding the play “Somayanam” provide a stark reminder of the importance of artistic freedom and the need for greater awareness about its role in our society. The incident highlights the need for greater understanding and empathy towards the arts and the artists who create them.

The question remains; where does the freedom of artistic expression lie today?

The answer lies in our collective commitment to promoting a culture of tolerance, understanding, and respect for the arts. It is up to us to ensure that the creative voices of our society are heard and that the power of art is used to bring about positive change and make society more tolerant of artistic creativity and expression.

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