Posts Tagged @NAATAK
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 .
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on June 20, 2019
Ashadh ka ek din (on Kalidas) : Naatak Play Review – June, 2019
Found on principles of bringing on stage intelligent and entertaining shows pertaining to East Asian literature and arts in San Francisco bay area, Naatak has consistently surpassed expectations from a demanding audience.
In Naatak’s 69th production, writer Mohan Rakesh’s “Ashadh ka ek din”, the focus is on young love, simple and lyrical as a poem, pure and unspoilt as nature, passionate and brimming with hope as the drop of first rain, in the month of ashadh. It depicts the story of Kalidasa, classical Sanskrit writer and poet who is presumed to have created his works in the 4th century, and was a royal poet during the reigns of kings Chandragupta II and Yasodharman. Kudos to Naatak for fantastic staging. How they manage it, despite low ticket prices is a mystery.
It is as true today as it was then that stupendous achievements often come from heart-wrenching personal sacrifices. Kalidas (Anush Moorthy) was ahead of his times and his talents went unnoticed, in his little village. However the king in Ujjain was impressed by his work and sent him royal invitation to go to the capital, Ujjain and adorn the royal court as a national poet. Kalidas is reluctant to leave his beloved, Mallika (Preeti Bhat) who is the inspiration behind many of his works. But Mallika insists that he should not pass up this opportunity which will help bloom his talent.
Kalidas: nayi bhumi sukhi bhi to ho sakto hai
Mallika: koi bhumi aisi nahi jiske antar me komalta na ho, tumhari pratibha us komalta ka sparsh awashya pa legi.
At the insistence of Mallika, Kalidas leaves his village, not to return for several years. With the force of royal sponsorship, Kalidas writes many epics like medghdootam, kumarsambhawa and raghuwans, all the while his beloved Mallika continues to be his muse. While Mallika pines for Kalidasa in the village. Mallika’s mother Ambika (Anshu Johri) curses Kalidasa and refuses to be drawn into the flow of emotions that have gripped her young daughter.
Ambika: “ma ka jivan bhavna nahi, karm hai”.
Behind every successful man, there is a great sacrifice of a woman (of course, in the present times, opposite is also true). Produced by Alka Sippy and directed by brilliant, Manish Sabu, “ashadh ka ek din” is a story of love that is eternal, of time which stops for noone, and of sacrifice from which are born great works of art. One thing the play is not and I would have loved more of is Kalidasa’s work itself. The play does not focus as much on his poetry. Kalidasa had written Rutusamhara before he went to Ujjain. If the play included many lyrics from there which spoke of the beauty of the mountains, clouds and rains that appeared even more beautiful to the poet, in the company of his beloved, then it would have enhanced our joy. Nonetheless, it is a tender love story, with beautiful prose and heart-touching dialogues.
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on September 5, 2018
The story of Mahabharat has been repeated among Indians, over and over in various ways, even via TV series. Why would you bring it on stage, and why say it again, and how could you say it better or do greater justice to one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, also known as the longest epic poem ever written? Therein lies the brilliance of Sujit Saraf who adapted it for the stage for NAATAK and is currently playing at Cubberley Theater in Palo Alto.
The Mahabharat, believed to be written by Vyasa, is a narrative of the Kurukshetra war, a deadly war among cousins, sparked by greed and fueled by lies, cheating, deceit, turncoats, and perhaps misplaced assumptions of right and wrong, good and evil. With Mahabharat being recited several times in history, with details and stories added or deleted and with the epic employing “story within a story structure” known as framelets, it is a mind-bogglingly complex story to tell, described by Hermann Oldenberg as a “horrible chaos”.
It is to great credit that NAATAK’s team, with director Saraf, producer Soumya Agastya, music director Nachiketa Yakkundi, choreographers, sets team and many volunteers and a huge cast of performers managed to bring this story on stage; not just to tell but in the form of the musical, with awesome dances and music, focusing on key dialogues and stories and with recreating the most impactful stories befitting the grandeur of the time, without overdoing any of it.
Sticking to the core of the epic, NAATAK’s Mahabharat traces the story of Kaurava and Pandava from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation and through their earliest ancestors known to us (Yayati, Dushyant, Shakuntala, Ganga, Shantanu, Nishad, Chitraghandha, Veechitravirya, Dhritrashtra, Pandu, Kunti, Gandhari and more) and brings us to the center of their conflict. When Shantanu was seeking to marry Satyavati (whose father Nishad had misgivings since her sons would not inherit the throne) Shantanu’s first born son, Bhishma made a strongest vow known to humankind, to never have children, never marry and never inherit the throne. But his step mother Satyvati’s two sons Chitrangadha and Vichitravirya died leaving behind no issues. Satyvati then asked her illegitimate son Vyasa to father children with Vichitravirya’s widows, in order to get heirs for the throne. Thus were born blind, Dhritrashtra and weak and sickly, Pandu. Vyasa also fathered a son with a maid servant, Vidur. Dhritrashtra with his wife Gandhari, fathered 100 sons who came to be known as Kauravas. Pandu, with Kunti and Madri fathered 5 sons, who came to be known as Pandavas.
In the greed and evil plots of the Kauravas, under the helm of the eldest brothers Duryodhan and Dushasan, and in their maternal uncle Shakuni’s evil machinations and in the gambling addiction of the righteous and truthful but incurable gambling addict, elder Pandava brother, Yudhishthir lies the seeds of the epic war in Bharat, which ended in Kali Yug.
NAATAK’s Mahabharat takes us through all the main plots and sub plots, major twists and turns (Guru Dron asking Eklavya to cut his thumb and give it as Guru Dakshina so that no one can contest his disciple Arjun; Kaurava’s plot to kill the cousins after hosting them in a palace of flammable materials and how they managed to survive; Draupadi’s wedding to the most able warrior; Kunti asking all brothers to share whatever they had brought and thus Draupadi came to be shared between the 5 Pandava brothers; Pandava’s loss of everything in gambling and Yudhishsthir putting his wife on the line and losing her; Kaurava’s attempt to disrobe and humiliate her and Krishna coming to her rescue; Pandava’s 13 years of vanvas; Kaurava’s adamant refusal to give them the smallest piece of land; and the war that was as inevitable as it was extensive and drew in all the surrounding kingdoms. Arjuna had a moment of remorse and refuses to fight his brothers on the other side and received updesh in the form of Geeta, from his charioteer, Krishna. The bloodiest war of the time soon descended into dishonourable tactics on both sides (where Arjuna’s young son is sent into a Chakravyuh though he only knew his way in and not out; Bhisma is mortally wounded when Pandavas use his principle to not pick up weapons against a woman and send in Shikhandi who is half woman, half man — all this and more). Bhima the strongest of the five Pandavas killed all 100 Kaurava brothers that evoked heart-rending cries of soulful mourning, followed by a curse, from Gandhari, the grief-stricken mother.
Mahabharat is overwhelmingly a story of men with women existing on the periphery; (consider the fact that among 100 Kaurava sons, there is no mention of a daughter) in tracing the entire ancestry, daughters are rarely mentioned. But it is women who experience and display raw emotions other than anger. It is Gandhari whose soulful tears at the loss of all her sons pierce one’s heart; it is Draupadi who suffers the humiliation in open court of men when her husband loses her in gambling; and it is Kunti who dutifully gives up her life in the palace to follow her husband to live in the forest.
In Mahabharat, NAATAK takes the audience through this spellbinding journey. With excellent staging, sound and awesome performance, it transports the audience to another era and retains the spell to the very end. In fact, the dialog at the end is most amazingly brilliant, distilling the essence of this epic event, a dark time brought by flawed humans and a tale of cruelty and sadness, thwarted ambition and greed, amidst small acts of courage and kindness. I loved the fact that this gripping tale is not told yet again from a traditional, routine, religious perspective but from the perspective of a historical event, values of the time, moral subtlety and ambiguity and human flaws. This incredible performance by NAATAK above all speaks to incredible and undisputed brilliance of Sujit Saraf.
I haven’t seen but I have heard that during the airing of the TV series, some people were inspired to perform pujas and garland the TV before airing of each episode. NAATAK’s performance will likely inspire the audience to find entertainment and perhaps engage in quiet reflection about values, principles, and moral code of ethics. This is a not-to-miss show of this theater season in the bay area. It retains the original flavor with Hindi dialogues but English supertitles are projected on the screen above. Tickets can be obtained at www.naatak.org .
PS: Thank you Kyle for Pictures by kyleadlerphotography
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on April 23, 2018
“How can we make user experience like flushing a toilet”, rhetorically questions Silicon Valley startup CEO, Mike Jordan (Barnaby Falls), in Anush Moorthy’s play “Unicorns”, a satire on modern era startups. It’s a perfect script to be presented without the elaborate set, costumes, or lights, to a small, intimate gathering of Silicon Valley audience. The play was performed on second stage at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, by NAATAK company which has won for three years in a row in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the San Jose Mercury News Reader’s Choice Award, for “Best Live Theatre in Silicon Valley”.
Unicorns traces an engineer’s journey as he joins Oberherr, a high valuation startup. Paranoid Silicon Valley culture has made it imperative for Oberherr, to be extremely secretive regarding their products and offerings. In the absence of talking about their products, in order to get noticed before the big launch and the IPO, the company banks on heavy use of buzzwords. Mike often says, “at Oberherr, we imaginate, innovate, ideate”. Dressed in the style made fashionable among high achievers by Apple’s former boss, Steve Jobs, in black turtleneck and blue jeans, Mike insists, their engineers “create things from nothingness”.
The company has eliminated desks to enable free flow of thinking and interaction and employees are forbidden to talk about the company, outside its premises. And then there is a palpable omnipresence of the board (Havish Ravipati) keeping a tight focus on the impending IPO. All this paranoia and cutthroat mentality has created interesting dynamics at Oberherr. While Radhika (Tannistha Mukherjee) is highly territorial and least helpful to newbies, her accomplishments go unnoticed in supposedly “egalitarian” workplace, dominated by men. Ramanathan (Natraj Kumar) has learned to get noticed by sucking up to Mike, and Robin (Rohit Mukherjee) stays out of trouble by staying focused on his laptop. Sahil (Varghese Muthalaly) is fabulous in his role as a new engineer joining Oberherr whose fortune rises and tumbles at the blink of an eye. Sahil shares a healthy camaraderie with a fellow software engineer, Joyce (Aparna Warrier) but couldn’t explain even to his wife Priya (Preeti Bhat) about company’s products.
As seen from a few recent debacles, (one of the prominent one being Theranos) there are interesting shortcomings in the hyped up Silicon Valley startup culture. The focus on speed and short term gains, at the expense of long term vision and value-add of its offerings is often proportionately correlated with diminishing concern for people, true teamwork and quality of life. People become pawns in a system when stretching the truth isn’t just overlooked but sometimes admired, in quest for world domination and mad rush to IPOs. Unicorns by NAATAK is a fantastic spoof on the Silicon Valley startup culture. This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season in the bay area. Tickets may be available at www.naatak.com .
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 .
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.
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on February 25, 2017
Current play “Airport Insecurity” written and directed by Vikas Dhurka is NAATAK company’s (www.naatak.org, Twitter @naatak) 56th production and features a comedic yet horrifying tale of an Indian immigrant on work visa, who loses his passport, wallet, and mobile phone at the airport, in a foreign, unfamiliar country, while in transit.
No one wants to be stuck in an indefinite limbo in transit, but Vijay (Varun Dua) has especially urgent need to return home to the US where his wife Priya (Devika Ashok) is about to deliver in what is turning out to be a high risk pregnancy. Vijay gets caught in a complex bureaucratic labyrinth where he cannot travel anywhere without a passport, US is not responsible for his “situation” since he is not a US passport holder, Germany will not allow him entry since he does not have a passport on which a temporary visa can be stamped, and his home country India requires that he travel to India where a new passport can be issued to him. In order to travel to India without a passport, he has to jump through multitude of forms and submit to background checks that can take upwards of 30 days or more, while spending days in Lufthansa lounge at the airport and spending nights in the airport travel area.
As Vijay makes several calls to the Consulate General of India offices in various cities and while he encounters usual tactics of evasiveness, comments regarding inconvenient timing, Vijay then encounters a kindly Indian official from the CGI who meets Vijay at the airport and explains to him, “here are some forms to fill out; most of them are necessary but not important”. India has inherited such a stupendous bureaucratic procedural system, a legacy of the British rule, that navigating one’s way through the system can be a nightmare but also creates a comedy of errors and that regaled the audience. Indeed, India has made a huge progress but we still have ways to go. I will describe my own experience of losing my passport below.
Meanwhile, Vijay also meets kindness and compassion along the way. In the end, the solution comes from his own ingenuity and from a country that relies on fairness and swift solutions, where you don’t need to know someone important to get a resolution, where compassion is built into the system, where no one needs to suffer endlessly without reason. I may have misspoken — err solution came from a country that was all that and more but in its quest to make itself “great”, it may lose the status of being the best; a country where an Indian immigrant techie caught in the current hate rhetoric is now more likely to lose his life in a little bar in Kansas, and incredulous Indian parents may be less likely to enable their children to go a country where struggle may not be about climbing the ladder of success but about staying alive and finding tolerance.
This comedic tragic tale is also relevant in the context of what happened to many hundreds of people caught in wake of the current administration travel ban. Caught off guard, caught in transit, caught at airports that denied them entry after draining long journeys, many people encountered a surreal situation of being neither here nor there, of not belonging, unable to hug and find comfort and solace with their loved ones. Nation that evoked and inspired the best, left splintered families in a state of “airport insecurity” limbo. NPR has discussed this not-to -miss play, relevant in the current context. See link https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2017/02/24/silicon-valley-theatre-scene-bristles-with-political-edge-in-the-age-of-trump/
Great kudos to playwright and director Dhurka for showing one man’s incredible and true story with an appropriate dose of humor; kudos also to producer, Gopi Rangan and to NAATAK company for bringing 56 incredible plays relevant to the South East Asian community in the bay area. Over 60,000 attendees have enjoyed their shows, performed by over 850 artists. Get your season passes at www.naatak.org . See below my own short story of loss of passport.
The time when I lost my passport in India
I had meant to write a blog but it never happened. Here is a short saga of my own loss of passport. I had my passport and my purse stolen while traveling in India. It is a great blessing to be an American citizen, if this were to happen to you. I traveled overnight to Mumbai and as I entered the American consulate, I stepped into an incredibly efficient and welcoming zone. I told them I wanted quickly a temporary passport that would enable me to travel back home. They issued a passport within 2 hours, while I waited in their comfy room. They also handed me a letter addressed to the Indian commissioner of Police stating that I had lost my visa with my passport and that India should immediately grant me a visa to leave the country and beseeched them to “extend all cooperation for speedy permit to enable this American citizen to return home”.
That is where my saga begins. I was informed by the Indian office of police that they needed to do background check and it could take up to 30 days. I had to fill in all the forms online and then go to the office with forms printed in triplicate and wait for hours to get an appointment. When I asked why they needed forms online and in print and whether they followed automated system or manual system then I was informed that they followed “automated manual system).
I was asked to first go to the police station in the locality where theft happened. When they said there was no one who can write a report, I requested that they give me the typewriter and I offered to write it up on their behalf and they allowed me to do that. Then I had to go the local police office in the area where I resided for 15 days as a tourist. Local office asked me to produce electricity bill where I resided. I had to request that from the owner of the property who took his own time to produce it. When I was asked to pay Rs. 3,000 in cash, I handed over a big bunch of Rs. 100 notes. They brought out a foolscap sheet of paper and asked me to write down the number of each note before standing in a line where they received payment. It took 7 days of going back and forth between police stations and offices before I was issued a small note that said it was okay for me to leave the country. Later at the airport, I noticed that the validity of this little document was expiring that very day. If for any reason I were to miss my flight or weather or technical or some other delay would occur than that little note obtained after such hard work would be invalid.
But then there were two things in my favor. I was an American citizen (brown skinned or not) at a time when America was still the best AND I wasn’t in transit, but rather in my home country, a country that I love and am proud that every day it is progressing in its quest to be better, more efficient, and more compassionate.
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on September 19, 2015
How does one take a known and tragic tale of the widows in Vrindavan, and transform it into a splendid work of art, full of humor, fun, mischief, and devotional songs in colorful costumes? But that is not all. The brilliance of “Vrindavan” show by NAATAK (awarded “Best Live Theater in Silicon Valley” by San Jose Mercury News), is that the playwright and director Sujit Saraf has created the show, without losing the grim reality of the widows’ dire existence. “Vrindavan – A grand musical” is BRILLIANT, BOLD, and BEAUTIFUL.
Thousands of widows cast out by their families in India, or simply finding themselves alone in the world, have for centuries, been making their way to Vrindavan, childhood home of Lord Krishna. Some travel hundreds of miles (a vast majority from Bengal), to get to Vrindavan, leaving behind whatever ties they had, in the land they had known, and make their home in this foreign place. They devote themselves to singing Mira and Radha-Krishna’s devotional songs, and get paid some coins for their effort. Gradually they forge new ties, not just with the divine, but also with fellow devotees. As they live with each other, they form friendships and watch out for one another. Their memories of old home fades, as they begin to see this new place as their home, where they find acceptance, camaraderie, and warmth, which the society denied them.
Every now and then, shakeup ensues from society, because these ostracized widows are an eyesore, they live in extreme poverty, and are often considered inauspicious. Sometimes government may want to clean up the city or enable the widows to live in less crowded and cleaner space, or a politician may come in with a grand vision of sending the widows to their original home cities, to be closer to their families. They don’t see that these widows, cast out by society, in Vrindavan, have found their home, and their family. With one another, they laugh, engage in pranks and make the best out of the card life dealt them.
Saraf tells their story with such deep respect and empathy, not just giving them a voice but giving their imagination, a colorful outlet. The widows have come to Vrindavan, to give themselves to living a life of devotion, and see themselves as Krishna’s devotees, Mira and Radha. Juxtaposition of widows attired in white, with Mira and Radha’s colorful devotional “bhajans” is mesmerizing, both in terms of the contrast, and in seamless blending of the two.
Saraf manages to pack the punch about the grim life of the widows in the five concluding minutes of the play, and that too without dramatics or fanfare. The low key ending is loaded with such depth and substance that it hits you in the gut. While Saraf brings the grimness of the widows’ lives front and center, towards the end of the show, he also gives the widows such courage, strength and dignity, that members of our society (where widows are accorded such treatment) are gently but surely nudged towards introspection, and may feel inclined to hang their heads in shame.
This massive production is a result of dedicated effort from a huge cast and crew, all giving their best. Sets director, Asheesh Divetia, and props designer, Savitha Samu, with their teams, have helped Saraf create this magic, with amazing attention to detail, and superb engineering. Kudos to production designer Snigdha Jain, and producer and consumes director, Soumya Agastya, and their teams, for their efforts in this bold performance. Finally, hats off to dance director, Guru Bandana Sen, assistant dance director, Dipanwita Sengupta, and music director, Nachiketa Yakkundi, and their teams, for beautiful songs and dances that make this show come alive. Get your tickets for this not-to-miss show, seeped in Indian culture, traditions, music, and dances, with superbly timed and beautiful supertitles (thanks to Vineeta Singh), at www.naatak.com .
Harish Sunderam Agastya has proved once again that he is an absolutely brilliant director, in “Rabbit Hole”, his 9th directorial venture with Naatak, based on a script by Pulitzer prize winning playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire. Superb props by Savitha Samu and her team create a sterile environment, in sharp contrast to the messy affairs that are to unfold. Every single performer has given their best, in telling of this story, centered around Indian American couple’s deep loss, heart soaking grief, and their gentle getting on with life.
Dipika Sharma and Avinash Sharma are dealing with death of four year old boy, Dev. Eight months after the loss, the best they are able to do is to talk at each other, rather than to each other, sidestep real issues, and argue over stuff that obfuscates real issues. In contrast, Dipika’s sister, Ishika Kumar deals with every issue, head-on. When she shares the news of her pregnancy from her boyfriend, with her sister, her sister feels that Ishika is too naive about the challenges of parenthood. Ishika insists,“this is exactly the kind of thing that gives a person clarity”. Dipika tries to give her dead son’s clothes to Ishika and Ishika tactfully denies them.
Ishika and Dipika’s mother Nandini Kumar breaks down while cleaning her grand son’s room, as she comes across his baby pictures. However, she also gets flak from her grieving daughter, when she compares little Dev’s loss to the loss of her own son Adit, 11 years earlier, from drug overdose.
Meanwhile Dipika and Avi’s grief has enclosed them in their own distinctive shell. Avi goes to a support group to help deal with the loss; he wants to feel his son’s presence in the home, through his pictures, his dog, his videos, and other stuff. Avi also wants to resume physical relations with his wife. Dipika wards off Avi’s advances saying she is not ready. Dipika also refuses to go to the support group. She copes by becoming overly practical in her approach to life, through constant flow of activities pertaining to daily routine, and by removing all reminders of her son, from her immediate environment. Her overwhelming grief finds an occasional outlet in outburst laced with anger and pain.
Jason Willette is the young man who was driving, when his car hit Dev. Apparently young Dev ran after his dog on the street, and it was deemed an accident, and Jason is legally not considered to be at fault. However, Jason is grief stricken and blames himself. Jason wants to talk with the Sharmas, but Avi is not keen to talk with Jason. Dipika however, decides to talk with Jason, and somehow in talking with him, her grief finds an outlet, as she breaks down sobbing. After their little talk, a mild miracle happens.
This play is not about an earth shattering story. This is an ordinary story of grief and loss that comes to life through absolutely superb performance. This story of heart rending grief and loss of life, resonates with members of the audience. The audience members were laughing with amazing Prathima Vadiraja, as Ishika Kumar, who was playful, fully self focused, and yet also totally tuned into other characters, and remarked on everything with candor that was both hilarious and endearing. Geeta Rai gave a good performance as a grand mother saddened by the grief of her daughter and unable to stop herself from giving advice to her daughter, to get on with life.
Harish Sunderam Agastya, as a grieving father, Avinash Sharma, was simply remarkable. His cluelessness on how to deal with his wife’s grief which is so very different from his own, was deeply moving. Grayson Richmond in the role of Jason Willette brought such intensity in his short performance that it touched a deep chord and ignited a collective wish to somehow erase what had happened. Every single performer gave their very best. And yet in the end, it was Kamala Subramaniam, as Dipika Sharma, who will leave a lasting impression. Members of the audience shared her grief so deeply, there were sniffles and attempts to find tissue to wipe the tears. Collective tears of sadness brought on by her remarkable performance, found some solace, when in a mild, gentle way she emerged from her shell, to contemplate what life will be like without Dev. Life must go on, and life, it seems, is after all lived one day at a time.
This is an absolutely not-to-miss performance of this theater season, in the bay area. Get your tickets for tonight’s last show, at http://www.naatak.com .
How to make a comedy written in 1590, come alive in 2015? Actually that is not even the full challenge tackled in this production by Manish Sabu and Juhi Mohan. The main challenge here is how to adapt a Shakespearean comedy to a community at the other end of the world and still retain its beauty, its sharp wit, and colorful dialogs.
Bay area’s NAATAK company rose to the challenge and exceeded all expectations in its theatrical production of “Taming of the Shrew”! There are absolutely no other words to describe but to say KUDOS for such a fabulous adaptation of Shakespearean comedy to Bundelkhandi, set in India. Don’t balk if you did not even know such a language existed in India. The language is a close cousin of Hindi and appropriately coordinated translation in English appears on two close circuit monitors on both sides of the stage. I can guarantee that the audience could not have enjoyed as fully this production in Hindi, as they can enjoy it in Bhundelkhandi. It is the difference in watching Shakespeare’s play in regular English versus watching it in Shakespearean English. Somehow this play in Bundelkhandi feels like it was originally written in Bundelkhandi. Yes, it feels that natural!! The production in fact begins with couple of little challenges thrown at the audience, to get them thinking in Bundelkhandi – which is also awesome!
Bundelkhandi dialect is earthy, rich, and beautiful.
Consider how rich this dialog feels in Shakespeare’s English. Gremio is questioning Baptista about his quieting his good and patient daughter Bianca and making her bear the penance of his “fiend” of a daughter Kathrina.
Why will you mew her up,
Signior Baptista, for this fiend of hell,
And make her bear the penance of her tongue?
In Bundelkhandi, Kathrina, the shrew, fiendish, evil, wicked one is referred to as “karkasa”.
Petruchio marries Kathrina and then insists they leave, without partaking in the feast. Kathrina resists and seeks help from others and Petruchio says
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing;
And here she stands,
Kathrina is now Petruchio’s “amanat”.
Petruchio then lovingly manipulates Kathrina, and masterfully takes on the nearly impossible task of taming his new bride, as Tranio explains to Bianca
Petruchio is the master;
That teacheth tricks eleven and twenty long,
To tame a shrew and charm her chattering tongue.
and Petruchio himself boasts
hum jo padhat hai, vo hi hum sikhaut hai, pirem ki kala
Finally, Petruchio succeeds in taming his shrew, and Kate learns not to argue with him, and she says,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
In Bundelkhandi, Kathrina says,
Chahe to suraj he, chahe chandrama, aur tum kaho to mombatti.
Some Shakespeare’s plays depart moral messages, whereas some are just humorous ones to be enjoyed for the sharp wit. Obviously, there is not moral message that would be applicable in this century, in Taming of the Shrew. But in regular English or in Hindi, it would seem preachy. Whereas in Bundelkhandi, this is a beautiful production, with marvelously talented cast, and perfectly suited staging. This play is full of sharp wit, performed in an Indian language that is ancient and earthy, yet easily accessible and enjoyed by all.
Every theater season, I share for my readers, not-to-miss-play of the season in South Bay area. For my Hindi speaking readers, without hesitation, I choose this NAATAK production as not-to-miss-play in this theater season. Please get your tickets before it is too late at www.naatak.org .