Jesus Christ Superstar Makes a Comeback 25 Years After Ban

At a time when bans are being imposed like crazy in India with hardly any introspection, here’s a bit of positive news. Two and a half decades after it was banned, the famous Rock Opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ was staged at Mary Roy’s Pallikoodam School in Kottayam, Kerala, to a packed audience on December 4. The ban, imposed in 1990, was lifted by the Supreme Court in April 2015.

It was the then district collector Alphonse Kannamthanam who had ordered the ban – just as children in the same school (Corpus Christy School in those days) were getting ready to stage it – citing that it could hurt religious sentiments of Christians. A lower court concurred terming the depiction of Jesus in the play ‘blasphemous and sacrilegious’.

The ban was challenged in the High Court by Mary Roy and Father Abraham Vellathadathil, former Principal of Henry Baker College, Idukki. They argued that the rock opera was a literary piece and even the Christians of the Vatican enjoyed it. However, the case shuttled between the Kerala courts for a decade before it went to the Supreme Court and ultimately it took 25 years for the ban to get lifted.

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Written in 1970 by Tim Rice and with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus’ life on earth. Hugely successful across the world, it has been professionally produced in 42 countries in the last 40-odd years. The musical highlights the struggle between Judas and Jesus with a psychological point of view. Told from Judas’ perspective, it portrays him as a tragic figure, a much misunderstood idealist unhappy with the direction of Jesus’ ministry.

The opera depicts the agony of Jesus during his betrayal, trial and condemnation. According to the play, Jesus Christ was not the son of God but was actually nothing more than the right man at the right time. It also suggests that Mary Magdalene may have had a relationship with Jesus.

The Supreme Court, while quashing the ban, said that it served no purpose since ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ had already been produced all over the world and is available online.