MARGAO: "It's a well-planned conspiracy aimed at stifling the voice of the tiatrists. In my tiatr I have portrayed the ills of the government and its policies and that has not gone down well with a section of politicians. And with the kind of good response the tiatr is receiving from the tiatr lovers, they are afraid that my tiatr will cause damage to their political prospects ahead of the Loksabha elections."
This was how Mariano Fernandes, director of the tiatr "Apunn Apleak Dev Somestank" in which Francis de Tuem is alleged to have made some derogatory comments against the Nuvem MLA Francisco "Mickky" Pacheco that led to the singer's arrest, reacted to the police action against the 'kantarist.' Francis de Tuem has been released on bail by the local court.
"Else how would you explain the haste in which Francis de Tuem was arrested simply based on a complaint that he made a phone call demanding money? Did the police track his call records before arresting him? Will the cops show such prompt action while dealing with complaints of the common man?" a visibly upset Fernandes demanded to know.
This view is shared by another well-known tiatr directior, Rio Menezes, who feels that the way Francis de Tuem was arrested was not appropriate. "They should have followed the normal legal course of action. We are in a democratic country and everybody has a right to express oneself. There are hundreds of media of political satire across the world and tiatr is one among them. And everybody here knows one's limits. In my tiatrs, I ensure that the limits are not breached," Menezes said.
Extolling the virtues of the triatrists and the glorious history of the theatre-art form, Fernandes said that the contribution of tiatr in protecting Goa's identity was "immense."
"Criticizing the politicians, highlighting the faults in the system of governance, and pointing out the pitfalls in the social arena are the strengths of a good tiatr. Even during the Portuguese regime, tiatrists had displayed commendable courage in hitting out against the oppression and harassment meted out to freedom fighters, despite there being severe restrictions in freedom of expression. Through the medium of tiatr we try to educate the people, particularly the less literate who may not have access to newspapers, about the state of affairs of the government," Fernandes said.
Sources in the know, however, pointed out that the controversy surrounding Tuem's arrest was remotely connected with the contents of the tiatr or the song which he sang on the stage. "Mickky, of late, has been critical of tiatrists. And when Tuem, while speaking on the tiatr stage - and not as a part of the tiatr or his role in it - made some satirical comments, Mickky took umbrage at it," a source among the tiatrists fraternity told TOI.
Former president of Tiatr Academy of Goa, Tomazinho Cardozo, underscored the need for tiatrists to observe restraint while criticizing others. "One should bear in mind that whatever he says doesn't infringe the right of the others. The right to free speech and expression should be exercised by keeping within the limits. Hitting somebody below the belt, targeting politicians' family members or their personal lives is bad. It brings down the standard of the tiatr," Cardozo told TOI.