Kunal Kamra’s show Fresher Thoughts in Surat was cancelled on Saturday after local members of an unconfirmed political party showed up at the venue, Shree Surti Modh Vanik Wadi Auditorium, and threatened to disrupt it.
Their issue was allegedly with Kamra’s content, which they say disrespects the Indian Army, PM Nehru, and the religious sentiments of Hindus by generating hate against their religion.
Around 90 minutes before the show was scheduled to start, show organiser Mubin Tisekar of The Entertainment Factory received a call from his team saying three people had showed up at the venue demanding the show be cancelled. As arguments and negotiations commenced, the three locals are said to have made some calls and exchanged messages on a WhatsApp group, after which more people aligned to the political party arrived at the venue on motorbikes, he confirmed. In less than half an hour, around 30 of them had reached the auditorium to ensure the show would not take place.
As arguments and negotiations commenced, the three locals are said to have made some calls and exchanged messages on a WhatsApp group, after which more people aligned to the political party arrived at the venue on motorbikes… In less than half an hour, around 30 of them had reached the auditorium to ensure the show would not take place.
According to the organisers, who were mid-setup, the rickshaw carrying the sound and light equipment for the show was not allowed to enter the premises, with threats of the equipment being destroyed if they did not comply.
By 8 pm, people who had bought tickets for Kamra’s 9 pm show started arriving at the venue, but were told the show was cancelled. With half the disruptors stationed inside the auditorium, and the other half outside, attendees realised something was wrong “and there was chaos”.
“There was no physical violence,” Tisekar confirmed when we reached out to him. “But they told one of my employees: ‘we won’t touch you but if Kamra comes here, we can’t give any guarantee; bawaal ho jayega‘. And other stuff I can’t say because it’s too vulgar.”
“They told one of my employees: ‘we won’t touch you but if Kamra comes here, we can’t give any guarantee; bawaal ho jayega’.”
“I called Kamra immediately telling him to stay at his hotel, and said we should call off the show for security reasons,” Tisekar said. “If something goes wrong, we’d be risking the safety of 500 audience members, the artists, the crew, my employees… there’s no way of predicting the consequences of going on with the show. I was not ready to take the chance.”
The police was called immediately, but “they just wanted that mutually jhagda khatam ho jaye”. According to the team, the disruptors continued to argue even after police officials showed up, and were standing at the gate till almost 11 pm making sure no one entered the venue.
Eventually, Kamra remained at his hotel, as organisers were informed that his presence would be considered “inciting violence”; the show was cancelled and the money was refunded to those who had bought tickets.
According to a report in The Indian Express, Police Inspector P A Arya said: “The programme was on Saturday and there was some problem between those setting up the sound system for the show organisers and some of local youths. The issue was later sorted out through mutual understanding,” Arya claimed, adding, “The organisers had booked the hall online and not taken police permission for the show.”
Here is a witness account from a show attendee, shared on a Twitter thread:
We reached out to Kunal Kamra, but he did not wish to comment.