Posts Tagged Harish Agastya
The Pillowman: Play Review at Naatak
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports on April 24, 2023
The Pillowman written in 2003, by Martin McDonagh, regarded among critics as one of the the great dark comedies of all time, is directed for @Naatak in English, by Harish Agastya and is produced for Naatak by Soumya Agastya. Harish Agastya is a brilliant director and he has simultaneously directed two versions of the play, with two parallel casts. I saw cast 1.
The play centers around Katuria in flashback as a young boy and now a young man (Abhi Wadekar and Kartic Bhargav), a fiction writer, living in an authoritarian regime. As the play starts, Katuria is being interrogated by two detectives, Topaki (Ekta Brahmkshatri) and Arial (M Zishan). Katuria’s younger brother Mikaal (Ankit Dhingra) is being held in an adjoining cell, accused of a few murders including of a little girl (Ayesha Javehrani). For all it’s darkness of the plot and gruesome imagination, The Pillowman is a Pulitzer prize winning drama and has also received various other awards.
Katuria is accused of writing gruesome stories depicting grim scenarios that include tortuous violence upon children. The very fiction that Katuria is immensely proud of and would like to survive even at the cost of his own life is said to inspire others to imitate and carry out the grim actions. Katuria is unflinching from his one true objective that his work must outlive him. He says, “It isn’t about being or not being dead, it’s about what you leave behind” Amidst the tension, there are some jokes and funny lines delivered expertly by the incredible cast.
This play explores a complex relationship between one’s upbringing and how it impacts one’s work of art and enables the artist to receive a measure of recognition. On the other hand, the play also explores the impact of the artist’s work on his readers and on the audience of the play itself. The emotional journey the play encourages the audience to take is at the very least, compelling, in terms of the emotional distress it causes as well as “what ifs” and “who deserves blame” scenarios the play compels us to introspect on. Do artists deserve blame for encouraging others to engage in horrific acts or can they be absolved of crimes that they only imagined or penned and where does one draw the line?
I can’t help but share here my personal point of view since I feel very strongly on the subject. At a time when book banning has become a controversial and important issue in several states in the USA, my personal view is that we must NEVER ban books or movies or drama or social media or works of art, on account of the impact it may have. Instead society must enable people to become more informed and savvy consumers such that people can put nonsense out of business. And I will add, instead, society needs to #BanAssaultWeapons so no one ACTS insane, if they’re not better informed and in the end, punish people to fit the crime.
One final note on the character of Katuria’s brother, Mikaal. Despite Mikaal’s inability to fully comprehend the severity of the situation, his simple mind was fully aware that love conquers all other challenges. He loved his brother deeply and willingly accepted lifetime of torture for himself or others so that his brother would become the greatest writer he hoped to become. All the depth and complexity that Katuria struggled to convey in his writings, his brother conveyed in his one simple action that subsequently looks more complex in the light of his later actions .
The play is running at Starbright theater in Campbell till May 7, 2023.. For tickets go to www.naatak.org .
Ek Tha Gaddha – Naatak Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports on June 23, 2021
Ek tha gaddha urf Aladad Khan is a brilliant satire, penned by Shard Joshi. Vain and narcissistic leaders always provide much fodder to artists, writers, and performers. The play begins with a foolish Nawab on the lookout for a perfect opportunity to provide help to his subjects. His search for this opportunity has less to do with genuinely helping his people and is more about satiating his oversize desire to attain glory and get his name entered into history books.
Naatak, a prominent and largest Indian theater company in the United States, has performed for over 25 years and their plays have been seen by more than a hundred thousand people. Naatak has been declared Best Live Theatre in Silicon Valley by the San Jose Mercury News for the past six years in a row. After closing due to the pandemic, Naatak opened for live performances, at the outdoor amphitheater in San Jose, with Ek Tha Gaddha, with the lead role played by none other than fabulous and beloved Harish Agastya.
No court of a foolish leader is complete without philosophers who adorn the court, primarily to sing praises of the king and discuss and opine over a myriad of silly issues. Chintaks played by Tannistha Mukherjee, Jai Jhala, and Rohit Dube looked hilarious discussing with great seriousness such matters as whether the time arrived before them or they arrived before time. Natraj Kumar as Kotwaal carried out his tasks of announcing the king’s arrival and his declarations with a proper air of haughty arrogance. Roshni Datta was marvellous in her role as Kotwal’s girlfriend, Ramkali.
Dhoban, Anjali Kirloskar was genuinely grieving her beloved donkey Aladad Khan’s passing. However, Nawab was led to believe that Aladad Khan was a poor but much loved citizen. Nawab decided to use the opportunity to get involved, make speeches and mark his death with a national period of mourning. Thus progresses the play with song, dance and rambunctious humor. Gullible citizens are taken for a ride in this hilarious play, even as we get to witness the brute power of the state.
To get tickets for this not-to-miss post pandemic play, performed in Hindi, go to www.naatak.org .
“Rumors” by Naatak – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on February 23, 2020
I was not expecting a great deal from NAATAK company’s most recent on stage production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors”. After all, farce is one of the most challenging genres to perform. A farce is a comedy in which everything is absolutely absurd and usually involves some kind of deception or miscommunication. People are not forgiving when it comes to laughter and lame comedy tragically falls short in generating laughs. Add to that the challenging part of translating humor into another language and culture. The play is in Hinglish with supertitles in clear English projected on top of the stage.
However, my worry was unfounded. This performance is by NAATAK and in every show NAATAK meets the challenge head-on and delivers the best. In Rumors, five couples invited to celebrate a sixth couple’s anniversary, find that the host has shot himself, hostess is missing, servants are nowhere to be seen and the dinner isn’t prepared. What ensues is a brilliantly interwoven performance of farcical missteps, outlandish lies, and dialogs so hilariously delivered that you will be in stitches, in no time.
First, there is an exceptional cast of actors with Kamala Subramananian, Chaitnya Godsay, Ekta Brahmkshatri, Ritwik Verma, Anjali Bhide, Natraj Kumar, Roshni Datta, Chanpreet Singh, Bruce Blau, and Deanna Shinsky. There are also ubiquitous Chakra and Meera, the host and the hostess who never quite make an appearance but drive the events from the shadows.
The title of this play (given by original playwright) is well suited for Naatak’s performance, adapted to Indian socialites. While on one hand, well meaning friends are driven to protect the scandal of the day (details of it are not yet fully known to them) and on the other hand, there is equally well intentioned and cultural proclivity to share about the scandal (to find and lend support), and to fill holes in the missing details.
The dialogs are nothing short of brilliant. Here’s how it goes between two people at the party,
“She has a thing you know”.
“What sort of a thing”?
“She is doing something with somebody, somewhere”.
There is also sarcasm in hinglish. Here’s one dialog.
“I am melting”.
“So are the planets. But that we can manage.
Aap ki mange
Environment ke aage.”
Kudos to Director and translator of the original script, Naatak’s marvelous, Harish Agastya. Everything comes together brilliantly in “Rumors”, with witty script in Hinglish, plethora of underhand comments, sarcasm, complex storyline, unbelievably nutty sequence of events, ridiculous cover-up and dynamic fabrications, events that unfold in slapstick manner, neurotic cast of characters who successfully deliver ingeniously funny moments, elegant costumes that indicate high socialite status of Silicon Valley’s Indian socialites and exceptional staging, sound and light. This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season for all theatergoers in Silicon Valley. Naatak has 5 more shows and is running till March 1, at the Cubberley Community Theater in Palo Alto. There are few tickets left for some shows. Tickets can be obtained at http://www.naatak.org .
Muavze – NAATAK Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on March 2, 2018
Set in an unnamed city in India, Naatak’s current play Muavze gives a peak in the world of Indian politics where everything has a price; everyone has a price and everyone have learned to extract whatever they can when the cards are played. Written by Bhisham Sahni and directed by Harish Agastya this play is a witty and hilarious satire on how everyone begins to plot ways of benefiting from the communal riots when it looks as if the riots are imminent. Interspersed with colorful Bollywood type songs and dances and brilliant set, the play keeps the audience riveted. Kudos to Ritwik Verma and Harish Agastya for very apt lyrics, Rajesesh Tripathi and Saurabh Jain and team for absolutely incredible sets and props, Anitha Dixit and Srikar Srinath for fantastic music, Manish Sabu for English supertitles, and entire large cast for excellent acting. Photo credit to Kyle Adler at kadlerphotography.com/events/naatak-muavze/
The word “Muavze”, meaning compensation is a relieving word and it is an irony that everyone is eyeing for ways to distill some form of personal advantage from what is expected to be most bloody communal fighting. Apparently a dead horse is an instigation for entire community to go into riot prep mode. While no one thinks of ways to prevent the riots, everyone is preparing for them from politicians who are keeping prepared speeches to be given at the beginning and end of the riot, to speech writers, to police team going on high alert ready to intervene after the riot begins, but not before, to arms and knives sellers hawking their wares to the highest bidders. Even some brave individuals are preparing to sacrifice the men in their families so that the remaining members of the family can benefit from the compensation that the government has announced, for anyone killed during the riots. It is such an irony that value of life and limb is predetermined and therefore the riot is now looked at by everyone as a mere fact of life to deal with and benefit in ways they can. It is absolute genius of Bhisham Sahni that he has taken most terrifying subject of communal bloodshed and expressed it as a comedy, without losing sight of the intensity and impact of the riots in a community.
It is also absolute genius of brilliant director Agastya that he has managed to transform the play into an amusing musical through catchy lyrics and parody music, without losing the seriousness of the subject. Starting with juxtaposition of opposing words like riots and compensation, the entire play offers a medley of opposing ideas, characters, actions, settings, and phrases. For instance, a contract killer adheres to strict code of ethics and also does not drink alcohol so he can go home, drink milk, and forget about the killings and sleep happily. There is juxtaposition of settings and also of lyrics in songs, for instance, parody of song, “Some of my favorite things” in film Sound of Music has become “Muavza jo de de humko” and song “Vaada tera vaada” of film Dushman has become “Yeh hai mera neta”.
While the play is a window into the world of the communal fighting and the toll it extracts in a community, it also speaks to immense resilience of human beings. When extremely heart-rending situations become a way of life and get ingrained in the system, when human beings are mere cogs in a gigantic wheel, unable to stop or challenge, then their choices are to get crushed by the gigantic wheel or become part of running it and extract personal benefit. The ultimate irony is that when masses pick up the call to propagate the system then the system gets more entrenched and the play ends in a nightmare when contract killer is popularly chosen to become the political leader. Kudos to NAATAK for such a timely play. This is an absolutely brilliant and not-to-miss play of this theater season in the bay area. For tickets, go to www.naatak.com .
Mela at Naatak – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on September 10, 2017
Currently Bay Area’s naatak company is presenting its 59th production at Cubberley Theater in Palo Alto. This production is naatak’s annual “mela”, a sort of theater fair. There are five short plays in five Indian languages; Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi and Improv comedy in Hinglish. English subtitles are projected for each short play above the stage. This is an absolutely beautiful way to showcase and enjoy India’s rich linguistic and cultural heritage. After a span of 21 years, naatak can proudly claim to have broughts 55 world class plays on stage. Over 850 performers have participated in these productions and 60,000+ attendees have enjoyed these shows.
पाचव्या मजल्यावरचा वेडा – The Mad Man On the Fifth Floor – Marathi
The script for Marathi play is written by Anil Sonar. It is produced by Adwait Joshi and brilliant direction is provided by Anannya Joshi. A madman precariously positioned on the ledge of a fifth floor window is being watched by the crowd below. Some have deep concern and others don’t want to miss the excitement and yet some others are waiting with anticipation to the gruesome climax of the show with the madman jumping to his death. But what is this man up there? What is his story?
লোকে কি বলবে? – What will people say – Bengali
Directed by Sudipta Chatterjee and produced by Deepika Sriraman, and based on “He Said, She Said” by Alice Gerstenberg, this Bengali play is translated and adapted by Sudipta Chatterjee and Harish Agastya. This short play focuses on the favorite Indian pass time, “gossip”. Casting is beautiful. A woman shares some juicy gossip about a romantic dalliance involving some friends. So interesting is a role played by gossip specially of romantic nature, in Indian culture, that targets of such gossip are often compromised and vilified so strongly that they can’t just let it go but instead feel compelled to justify, defend and give excuses. Will the gossipy woman have finally met her match in the strong woman targeted by the gossip?
Naatak Improv – Hinglish
Naatak organization has matured so phenomenally that it can boldly brag to present improv comedy that is spontaneous and creative. In this short segment directed by Neha Goyal and Abhay Paranjape, a brilliant cast of characters perform improv games based on audience suggestions.
காஞ்சியின் துயரம் – A Tragedy in Kanchi – Tamil
Based on “A Florentine Tragedy”, a never completed play by Oscar Wilde, this play is set in 1930s during the Chola period, whereby a silk merchant confronts his beautiful wife and her royal lover. Will the play have an ending that befits the crime? Tamil speaking audience members are likely to greatly enjoy Kalapathy Sundaram’s brilliant translation. The projected English subtitles give some clue but it is hard to fully enjoy Wildesque witticisms in fast projected subtitles. Directed by Soumya Agastya and produced by Archana Kamath, this short play could well be Tamil speaking literature lovers’ treat.
खिड़की – The Window – Hindi
Based on “The Open Window” by Saki (H H Munro) and adapted for the stage by Mugdha Kulkarni, is also directed by Mugdha Kulkarni and produced by Chaitanya Godsay. This is a mystery about a missing husband, where an open living room window comes to play a significant role. The fear experienced by a young visitor is palpable and imaginative description of the lost man gives no clue to his disappearance until…………. Well, you’ll have to see it.
સાંભળ, તું બહાર જાય છે? – Everyone loves an errand boy – Gujarati
Based on Saadat Hasan Manto’s play, “Aao baat suno” this short play is adapted by Paresh Vyas and Vikas Dhurka and is directed by Natraj Kumar and produced by Devika Ashok. A lazy Sunday is transformed gradually into a comedy of errors, err…. into a comedy of errands. O M G — it is hilarious and also features the best dialogue, “Et tu brute” errr…. “Et tu Rajesh”.
For tickets to Naatak’s 59th Mela production, go to www.naatak.com .But hurry. There are only 2 more shows and tickets are selling out fast.
God of Carnage – Play Review (Bay Area, CA – NAATAK Co. Production)
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on October 30, 2013
God of Carnage, a play written by Yasmina Reza (in French) and translated by Christopher Hampton, has been beautifully adapted to competitive Indian parents, meeting to resolve a playground altercation between their two young kids, in this production, by Bay Area’s prominent NAATAK company. It is produced by Soumya Agastya. In his debut in NAATAK, as a director, Mukund Marathe has done a splendid job, that couldn’t be far from perfect.
In this 90 minute play, two couples, Anita and Anil Srivastav visit Renuka and Mukul Desai, at the Desai home, to discuss the playground fight between their two children, in which Anita and Anil’s son’ knocked out two teeth of Renuka and Mukul’s son. At first, the couples observe the civilities, mind their manners, and amicably discuss how to deal with the situation. Acknowledging his son’s behavior to be aggressive, Anil says “our son is a maniac” and in a spirit of cooperation and to not assign blame, Renuka accedes “we try to fill the gap in the education system, take the kids on field trips and museums but there is violence in the system”.
However, soon the hidden ugliness appears. As the meeting progresses from coffee to rum, as the masks come off, the gloves too come off, not just between one couple and another but at times between men against the women. And yet these people are not criminals or psychopaths. In these people, we can see us. Some character we identify more with, and some less. In some we see our neurotic friends, and in some our foes. The complex mix of characters and their ordinary zanyness is what gives this play, depth and poignancy. Satirical dialogs make you laugh uncontrollably.
The four actors have done a marvelous job of playing their semi-neurotic roles. Divya Satia plays the role of Renuka, a writer who works part-time in a museum. She is an activist whose life is defined by causes. First, her forthright, authentic approach sucks the audience in and then her “holier than thou” tone is both hilarious and annoying. Her husband, played by Puneet, is a wholesale business trader and at first he is infinitely accommodating, but he soon emerges as cavalier (who tires of his daughter’s hamster and just releases it in the wild), easily looses his temper, is racist, and says “child rearing is wasteful”. Pooja Srivastava plays the role of Anita, a “wealth manager” attired in trendy suit, stilettos, branded purse and appears very cultured. However, soon she can’t handle the tension, begins to get ill, throws up all over on the hosts’ coffee table, and laughs like a child, when she manages to grab her husband’s cell phone and throw it in a vase filled with water. Harish Agastya is playing the role of Anil, a fascinating character of a smart but slimy corporate lawyer who is preoccupied with his pharmaceutical client dealing with problems of side effects of blood pressure medicine and is constantly getting calls from the client. He comes to the meeting with the attitude of observing niceties, get it over with, and move on to tackle the problems of his client.
As the gloves come off, Anita calls Mukund a killer (for releasing the hamster in the wild and allowing it to fall prey to other creatures). After defending himself, wiping off the soiled coffee table, cleaning the soiled books, Mukund pours himself a drink and says “I am starting to feel serene”. His wife Renuka is bewildered that only she is concerned about what trespassed between the children and says, “I am the only one not feeling serene. In fact I’ve never been so unhappy”. Meanwhile, Atul who felt from the beginning that it was much hoopla about nothing, explains that Desai’s son refused to allow his son to be in his gang and therefore, he says, “my son did good to beat the shit out of yours”. It is apparent that as parents, all four have their blind spots and they are hardly looking for someone else to tell them how to do their job of parenting.
These are four actors on top of their sport and they have done a fabulous job with good acting, of behaving badly. Yasmina Reza once said, “Theater is a sharp reflection of society” and in this play, the mirror is held close. While providing the philosophical depth, the play provides great entertainment with razor sharp humor. Opening night performance was sold out and two remaining shows this weekend are expected to be sold out. Go to www.naatak.com for more information.