Posts Tagged Puneet

Andhera Hone Tak – (Wait Until Dark) – Hindi Play Review


NAATAK company has exceeded all expectations in its production of “Andhera Hone Tak”, hindi version of Frederick Knott’s classic thriller, “Wait Until Dark”.  The play is performed with English subtitles projected above the stage, and that makes it a must-see play, for a wider range of  audience.

Stage versions of thrillers are rare because suspense and elements of a thriller, including murder, robbery etc. are hard to create on stage.  Producer Surender Singh has made a bold attempt in bringing this production and the suspense filled thriller does not disappoint on any count.  Clearly, Mukund Marathe has once again proved that he is simply one of the most brilliant directors.

Suneeta Saxena (Sareeka Malhotra) is a housewife, who is also blind, and is married to Sameer Saxena (Puneet) and they live in Shivaji Park, Mumbai.  Sameer becomes an innocent transporter of a doll stuffed with contraband, when he brought it home, at the request of a woman, who is now surfaced as dead.  Soon thereafter, Sameer is traveling again for business and Suneeta becomes target of three con-men, looking for heroin hidden in a doll.  The doll is nowhere to be found because unbeknownst to anyone, a little girl, Aneesha, living in the apartment upstairs, has stolen the doll. The trio play initially manage to get Suneeta worried that her husband will be suspected of murdering the woman and the only way to protect him would be to enable them to have the possession of the doll.

Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sareeka Malhotra’s performance as a blind heroine, is brilliant, both vulnerable and at the same time courageous and determined.  The three con men, played by Varun Dua, Sanjay Apte, and Amit Sharma are so good at being bad that their performance holds you at the edge of your seats.  Aneesha Nema, the little child star gives a phenomenal performance as a bratty but precocious kid.  The set design is superb, easy for a supposedly blind person to navigate and yet complex for her to figure out the movements of the intruders.  Juhi Mohan has done a great job with lights, helping create the perfect “dark”, that would give Suneeta an edge against the intruders.

Every theater season, I give my recommendation of a “must-watch play of the season” from among South Bay Theater companies, including (NAATAK – www,naatak.org, CityLights – http://www.cltc.org, San Jose Stage – http://www.thestage.org, Theatreworks – http://www.theatreworks.org, EnActe Arts – http://www.enacte.org etc.) and this season, unequivocally, I recommend NAATAK’s “Andhera Hone Tak”, as the “must-watch play of the season”.  While the play is performed in Hindi, the English sub-titles, projected above the stage, make it easy for all to enjoy.  So remember, you don’t need to understand Hindi to enjoy the suspense, heart stopping tension, spooky lighting, and climactic end, all delivered by flawless performance, in real time.

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Party – Play Review


Naatak company is formed by a group of theater enthusiasts of Indian origin, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Since it’s founding in 1995, Naatak company has made huge strides in prominence and stature by bringing quality live theater, with Indian and Indian-American themes, on stage, in the bay area.  Naatak has now introduced season passes to enable regular theatergoers the convenience and price deal, for its outstanding performances.

The current play “Party” is based on original Marathi play, written by Mahesh Elkunchwar, in 1976.  Directed by Ravi Bhatnagar and Alka Sippy, the play is meant as a satire, aimed at India’s urban elite.  Based on some comments from my friends who have seen the original play in Marathi and/or the Hindi movie that came out in 1984, it was a highly intelligent satire of the pseudo-elite, the patrons of the arts and literature who nevertheless lived hypocritical lifestyles and held conflicting values.

The acting by a big cast of almost a dozen people in this play is fantastic, as has been typical in all Naatak plays.  The scene is the party hosted by  Damyanti Rane, in honor of a well known playwright, Diwakar Barwe, who is at the pinnacle of his success. Basab Pradhan, as doctor who is attending the party because he is Rane’s friend, has done a beautiful job of delivering his satirical lines, with a straight face.  Referring to Rane’s guests, he tells Rane at the beginning of her party, “why must you go on collecting these nut cases?” Sindu Singh and Vijay Rajvaidya are fabulous as Rane and Barve, respectively.  Only as the party progresses, the skeletons and the hidden agendas, the fears, and the disillusions harbored by these party-goers become apparent.   Barwe confesses to Rane that his work has not had much originality and he has held his top spot only because he defends his turf and discourages other budding writers.  His gorgeous live-in girlfriend, Mohini, a former actress (nicely played by Priya Satia), is in fact, addicted to alcohol and lives in the imaginary world of being deeply in love with Barwe, though he does not love her any more.

Snigdha Jain has done a great job with superb set design.  Manish Sabu and Anubha Prakash’s work with English sub titles is excellent. If you are not well versed in Hindi, you won’t miss the fun because English sub titles appear in a timely way, right above the stage.  Asheesh Divetia is perfect in his role as Bharat, a budding writer, who is plagued by insecurities, interspersed with moments of great insights and clarity.  Nandita Kant, in the role of Vrinda (Rane’s plain looking daughter and an unwed mother) seems to be the only genuine person at the party.  She spurns unwanted advances from her mother’s friend and suitor, Agashe, played by Puneet, before she confronts her mother about her superficial world that feels so alien to her.

The problem however, is that none of these interactions seem like extraordinary events that make a great story.  They also don’t feel like immensely ordinary events that the audience would deeply identify with and would move the audience.  They sort of just hang in there.  The satire in this play seems to fall flat, the dialogs are not supremely witty, jokes are not rip-roaringly hilarious, and none of the characters display huge depth or intensity.  I went to see the play with my friend and her smart, literature enthusiastic daughter, Sonia Mahajan, who is a freshman at a local high school.   After the play, I asked her what she thought of the play.  “Nothing happened”, she said.  I think that about sums up how this play came through.

The only things that happen of any consequence, were with a character who is absent from the stage, and whom we hear about  from Joginder (Ishmeet Singh), a local reporter.  Amrit, a promising writer-poet, is concerned with the plight of the tribal people and in stark contrast to these elitist party-goers, he indicates his commitment to the society through his actions, residing and fighting on behalf of the tribal people, seeking justice for them.  Despite fabulous acting by a brilliant cast, the play is not riveting.  Perhaps some brilliance was lost in translation.  More specifically however, these pseudo-intellectuals or elites in 1970s India, just seem like ordinary people, with ordinary concerns, and ordinary hypocrisies, in the 21st century, America.  At best, “Party” feels like an annoying party one is attending out of obligation and can’t wait to go home.  

I want to give credit to the NAATAK company for bringing a wide variety of topics, on stage.  Not every topic or theme can be perfect and resonate with every member of the audience.  The diversity and variation of subject matter serves to enhance the perspectives of Bay Area theater-goers, particularly those interested in themes related to the Indian sub-continent.  I have seen the play “Disconnect”  when it was performed at San Jose Rep, that will be presented by NAATAK in June.  Here is a link to my review –http://bit.ly/14uuKgm and I would absolutely highly recommend it.  With NAATAK casting and direction, it is likely to be absolutely brilliant.   There will be one or two more shows of “Party” and tickets and/or season passes can be purchased at www.naatak.comPARTY

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God of Carnage – Play Review (Bay Area, CA – NAATAK Co. Production)


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.

God of Carnage

God of Carnage (Photo credit: angela n.)

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