Posts Tagged Review

Gangubai Kathiawadi: Bollywood Movie Review


Based on a chapter of Hussain Zaidi’s book “Mafia Queens of Mumbai”, film “Gangubai Kathiawadi” revolves around the life of Gangubai Kothewali, who rose to fame and prominence, during 1960s and came to be known as the “Madam of Kamathipura”, the famous red light district of Mumbai. The film premiered at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival and was then released in theaters on February 25, 2022 and is produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Jayantilal Gada and Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. I never mention before completion of the review, but I will make an exception and say that this is an absolutely beautiful and “must watch” movie for any serious movie enthusiasts. 

This is a biographical film and is loosely based on the life of Ganga Harjivandas, who was born into a reputed Kathiawadi family in Gujarat, in 1938. She had dreams of city life and having found the love of her life, at a young age of 16, she married and eloped with Ramnik Lal to Mumbai. That is when her life’s trajectory changed. Ramnik Lal sold her to a brothel for a paltry Rs. 500 and she was forced to enter the oldest trade in human history.

Ganga eventually emerged as Gangubai and became a powerful brothel owner herself. At a time when feminism wasn’t even a concept, Gangubai emerged as a voice for these women, and she demanded they get equal treatment, opportunities for their children, and legalization of their profession. Alia Bhatt has exceeded all expectations in the role of Ganga, as she evolves into Gangubai. When starring in a biopic, the actor is familiar with the story of the events that took place in the character’s life. But it is only an actor who can put life into the evolution of the character and bring to life their journey. This is the journey of how a young girl with dreams of starting her married life dealt with that betrayal, accepted the fact that there was absolutely no escape for her and to change her circumstances, she needed to change herself and get an upper hand over the life that was thrown at her.

Every dialog that Gangubai says, is uttered with masterful theatrics by Alia. 

When challenging her competitor in local elections, without a shred of doubt about her own potential win, Gangubai says, “ज़मीन पे बैठी बहोत अच्छी लग रही है तू, आदत दाल ले, क्यों की तेरी कुर्सी तो गयी”.

As she riles up her girls she says, “इज्जत से जीनेका, किसीसे डरनेका नहीं,  ना पोलिस से, ना मंत्री से, ना MLA से, ना भड़वो से, किसी के बाप से नहीं डरने का”. 

And “genius वोह नहीं होता है जिसके पास हर सवाल का जवाब हो, genius वोह होता है जिसके पास हर जवाब तक पहोंचनेका patience हो”.

And “अरे जब सकती, सम्पति, सदबुद्धी तीनो ही औरत है तो मर्दो को किस बात का गुरुर”?

Bhansali has said, “That belief in herself and that fight for dignity is what fascinated me” but then his challenge was to extract it out of his actors. Brilliant director that he is, the movie is incredibly emotionally and visually rich, with every scene loaded with meaning. When Gangubai finds a lover, she is skeptical at first and tests him to see if he respects boundaries. And then comes a surreal moment when she simply rests her head on her lover’s shoulder and in that moment her skepticism, the load of betrayal that she has carried for years on her shoulders, melts into deep love and trust towards this man. There are so many moments that portray genuine humanness, whether it is about aggression, betrayal, defiance, distrust, or concern and caring. And there are incredibly powerful dances by Alia to the beat of drums and songs that connect Gangubai to her Kathiwadi roots but also to her present. In the song Dholida, Alia dances with abandon, to the praise of Goddess Amba, powerful and savior of all. One can’t think of anything more apt. The lyrics go…

ખમ્મા, ખમ્મા મારી માવલડી
તું છે જગની તારણહાર
હે, ચોટીલા ના ડુંગરવાળી
ચંડી ચામુંડા બિરદારી

Item number by Huma Qureshi is also fantastic. Ajay Devgun as underworld Don and Seema Pahwa as brothel madam are fantastic. What is guaranteed to make the entire movie a memorable experience is Alia’s masterful performance during the speech she gave towards the end of the movie, where content meets creativity, actor becomes the character, words hold deep meaning and performance manifests it. 

As the person introducing her is about say Shrimati and then stops, apparently struggling how to introduce a brothel owner, Gangubai takes the mic from her and begins,

“कुंवारी आपने छोड़ा नहीं, श्रीमती किसीने बनाया नहीं”

She ends with, “लिख देना कल के अखबारमे, के आज़ाद मैदानमे भासन देते वख्त, गंगूबाईने आँखे झुकाकर नहीं, आँखे मिलाकर हक़ की बात की है भाई”. Looking straight ahead, Gangubai told the women gathered to protect women’s rights, “A few handful of women who cater to the physical needs of men are actually protecting all of you from being attacked. These women help blunt the bestial male aggression and they deserve legal protection and their children have a right to get education and other opportunities”. 

On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate this movie 5.

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Tehrir – Premchand Munshi’s Godaan serial review


“Godaan” is a famous Hindi novel by Munshi Premchand. Published in 1936, this novel is counted among the greatest novels of Hindi literature. Before talking about this novel and the series that is based on this novel and is streaming on Youtube, let’s talk a little about Munshiji. Munshi ji’s place in the world of Hindi literature is among some of the most outstanding writers. The novels he has written include famous and popular books like Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Gaban, Mansarovar, Idgah. He has written more than 12 famous books and over 300 short stories and his books have been translated into English and other foreign languages. I have written reviews in Hindi and Gujarati and will post them as well.

In 1963, a Bollywood film was made on “Godaan”, starring Raj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Mehmood and Sashikala. 

In 2004, Tehrir, directed by Gulzar, based on Munshiji’s Godaan, was aired on Doordarshan, starring Pankaj Kapur and Surekha Sikri.

Farmer ploughing field Rural farmer of Indian ethnicity ploughing field using wooden plough which is riding by two bullock. Farmer Stock Photo

This is a masterfully told story focusing on the lives of farmers in rural India of 1930s. These poor and largely uneducated farmers are caught in a cycle of poverty and debt. Various members of the upper classes including, jamindars, thakurs, members of the Panchayat, and brahmin priests take advantage of the fact that the farmers look up to them and deeply respect them. For real and imagined transgressions, fines are levied on the farmers, their animals (and sometimes their farms) are seized in return for loans given at exorbitant interest rates, receipts are never given of loan repayments leaving it to their will how much to extract from the poor farmers and thus continues the cycle of poverty for generations. Sometimes these farmers even become a target of the members of their own class, on account of jealousy. And when a farmer is fully driven into debt and there is nothing left to extract out of the poor man who has lost his youthful spirit and is well into his middle age, then he is cajoled into marrying his beloved young daughter to old man, twice her age, but one who is not likely to demand a dowry and may help the family financially. 

The serial is specifically centered around a farmer, Horiram and his wife, Dhania and their three children. Performances by Pankaj Kapur as Hori and Surekha Sikri as Dhaniya are absolutely flawless. The serial is heart-rending, flawlessly made with superb performances and engaging story, beautifully told. I watched it in Hindi but since Munshi’s stories are translated in other languages, I highly recommend that you try and find it and watch if possible.

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Ek Tha Gaddha – Naatak Play Review


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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. 

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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 .

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For here or to go? Movie Review


Not only do we humans get used to an easier life with some comforts, but when we begin to get settled in a place where we begin to build our career in our youth and make friends and build aspirations then we’re simultaneously not planning an alternate lifestyle. However, students who come to study in the US are stuck in a limbo of uncertainty for years, and among them are over a million young people from India. Pulled between a sense of cultural displacement, strong familial ties back home and climbing the career ladder of success in the US, their dreams are just beginning to come into a sharper focus as they enter the world of work, after completion of their studies. 

The Impermanence of Being an H-1B Immigrant

When the recession hit in 2008, young Vivek Pandit (Ali Fazal) with brilliant ideas for a tech startup, encountered problems with his visa renewal. Faced with the prospect of going home, his friends advise him that If the job is over then they have to be ready to leave. Life in a different society will call for different priorities and accordingly they say, “Go to the Golden gate, and take a few pics that you can also use for shadi.com (Indian matrimonial site)”.

Vivek’s accidental meeting with Shweta  (Melanie Kannokada), a second generation Indian or ABCD as they are called by desi circles, results in a sprouting romance. However, Vivek’s uncertain future suddenly ends a relationship that looked promising. Vivke laments, “Temporary is not how you feel living here, it’s also how others see you”. Meanwhile, Shweta’s author father Vishwanath Prabhu (Rajit Kapur) is on a speaker’s circuit advising young Indians to return home and make a difference in India.

Vivek’s townhouse roommates include Sam (Samrat Chakrabarti), a gay co-worker Lakshmi (Omi Vaidya), and Amit (Amitosh Nagpal). Their innocent mistake or allowing a friend who is an illegal immigrant, lands them on the FBI’s watch list. Each of them is also navigating a set of cultural and practical challenges. Omi is reluctant to visit his family back home, from the fear that he may be pressured to get married and they will not accept his being gay. Amit has to present his passport to the FBI but has misplaced it.

As the movie progresses it begins to become clearer that among the blessings these young people have are their families who care deeply for their happiness and love and support of friends who are stuck in similar moral dilemmas and navigating practical challenges. Amit bring many lighter moments. Living in a shadow of uncertainty he says, Zindagi sirf guarantee pe nahi, umido pe bhi chalti hai (life doesn’t just run on certainly, it also unravels on the basis of hope).

Writer-producer Rishi S. Bhilawadikar’s script is fast moving and hits a range of diverse points that highlight the complexities of living a life of uncertainty. Director Rucha Humnabadkar has avoided over-dramatizing any of these challenges, while maintaining focus. 

In the end, what you are impressed with is the quiet tenacity and adaptability of these bright young people. Vivek says, Akhir zindagi sirf umiddo pe nahi, apni nazariya pe bhi to chalti hai (after all, life doesn’t just unfold on the basis of hope, but also unravels as per your perspective and efforts).

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Parasite: Movie Review


Parasite is an incredibly awesome film. Winner of best picture and 3 more awards at Oscars; Parasite has also won numerous other awards including at Cannes Film Festival, Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and more.

Sometimes I don’t get the time to write a review and then I watch something else and then give up on the previous show. But I heard criticism that Parasite was selected at the Oscars to promote diversity (by few who did not watch it). In effect, such criticisms take away from the phenomenal masterclass movie it is. 

 

So I decided to write the review. But how does one write a review of a movie that has already obtained a whirlwind of publicity, is already a box-office hit? And how does one write a review of a movie that is a tragicomedy mystery, without giving away anything? And how does one write a review of a movie that is an experience to be savored, an experience that touches the soul, broadens the perspective and offers moviegoer an opportunity to look at commonplace events with an alternative perspective than the one that we may be used to? 

Not wanting to just add to the hype, I will not write a lot about the movie here. But briefly, this movie has a rich cast of characters and there is depth in their performances. It offers an opportunity to consider the impact of class differences in a way that is not preachy and without romanticizing the goodness of one class over the other. The movie offers an opportunity to consider the impact of global warming and climate change that affects people differently, depending on their station in life. And then there is a deep innate desire to protect one’s family from the ravages of poverty on one hand, to the discomfort of poverty associated sights and smells on the other hand.  And if you choose to ignore all the messages, you can still enjoy the movie at its simplest level, where it is a mystery with many twists and turns, that keeps you on the edge of your seats and is insanely entertaining. The film is a masterful work of art that is also a mainstream crowd pleaser. It is simply impossible to pigeon hole the movie into any pre-determined slots. From the title chosen to the impossible ending, it imbues with meaning.

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The Guardian describes the movie as the “cinematic equivalent of a Rorschach inkblot test” where you can decide to unravel the layers in the movie, at the depth that is comfortable to you. Kudos to director Bong Joon Ho for amazing direction in this Oscar winning tale with multiple messages. Entire cast is fabulous but specific mention to Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park for truly phenomenal acting.

All I hope is that people not criticize the movie selection for the Oscars, until they see the movie. Lastly, there really is no point in reading the reviews because no review can do full justice to this soul-stirring tale of blended genres that is beautifully narrated, and is masterfully layered with depth and meaning. For a theatergoer, this is an experience, not to be missed. 

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Chicago – Play Review


Come on babe
Why don’t we paint the town?
And all that Jazz…

If you’re intending to paint the town there’s no better place than at Chicago, the musical that is currently playing at the stage in San Jose and is the longest running American show on Broadway. The story is based on real events where in roaring twenties Chicago, Roxie Hart (Monique Hafen Adams), a nightclub dancer, lands on murders row. Her role as narcissistic, self absorbed and spoiled wannabe star is poignant and powerful. While she can be locked up forever or hanged for the murder, Roxie is enjoying the stardom, the notoriety has brought her.

The name on everybody’s lips
Is gonna be Roxie
The lady rakin’ in the chips
Is gonna be Roxie
I’m gonna be a celebrity
From just some dumb mechanic’s wife
I’m gonna be Roxie
Who says that murder’s not an art?
And who in case she doesn’t hang
Can say she started with a bang?
Foxy Roxie Hart!

Another famous nightclub star, Velma Kelly (Allison F. Rich) is also going through the legal system, having committed a prior murder.  Roxy and Velma compete with each other in spinning their stories, in getting jury’s sympathy and as their notoriety throws them into stardom, they compete to get the best roles in the nightclub shows.

The female driven murderer song and dance is full of energy romp through upcoming “not guilty” plea and “self defense” defense, along with the corruption characteristic of the court and prison system of 1920s.. 

He had it coming
He had it coming
He only had himself to blame.
If you’d have been there
If you’d have seen it

But you haven’t seen nothing yet, until you meet Mama Morton. Branden Noel Thomas is dazzling and commanding in his role as Mama Morton and….

When you’re good to Mama
Mama’s good to you!
And now ladies and gentlemen –
the Keeper of the keys,
the Countess of the clink,
the mistress of Murderers Row,
Matron Mama Morton!

My most favorite piece is the press briefing. The PR campaign reminiscent of what is currently going on in politics, is complete with word plays, spins and conniving and evil manipulation of the news. It seems media manipulation with an aim to influence public perception with false propaganda through suppression of information and outright deception was almost as devilish in the 20s, as it is today.

Give ’em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle dazzle ’em
How can they hear the truth above the roar?
Throw ’em a fake and a finagle
They’ll never know you’re just a bagel
Give ’em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger ’em
Daze and dizzy ’em
Show ’em the first rate sorcerer you are
Long as you keep ’em way off balance
How can they spot you got no talents?
Razzle dazzle ’em


This show explodes with energy, wit, and fabulous music and dance numbers. Kudos to Randall King for superb direction. Chicago is a class act. Whatever happened to class? It’s all there in this show.

Why is it everyone now is a pain in the ass?
Whatever happened to class?
Now, no one even says “oops” when they’re
Passing their gas
Whatever happened to class?

 

Chicago is a not-to-miss show during this theater season and will be playing at the San Jose Stage Theater till March 15, 2020. Tickets can be obtained at www.thestage.org

 

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“The Wolves” – Play Review


A team of young soccer players in Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves” start out with routine banter, typical of young girls, as they do pre-match warm-up sessions. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, the play offers a rich insight into the minds and hearts of young girls. It is inspiring and emotional, funny and sad and juxtaposes the trials and tribulations of growing up as a young girl in a manner that creates a rich tapestry of varying colors of adolescent life. 

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The play is not organized around a singular conventional theme. In fact, the points of tension are dispersed among many situations and issues and randomly emerge in the fast and fragmented girl talk. There is anxiety around being in love, getting recruited to a top college with athletic scholarship, being home schooled and moved around with a parent’s job, going for unsupervised parties with boys and more. Added to all the choices that young girls wade through, there’s the shame, guilt and secrecy around sex and sexuality. 

What emerges is a rich tapestry of adolescent angst, amidst glaring fundamental truths, the many choices that will have long term consequences and many responsibilities that they delicately seek to balance and navigate through, relying on each other, where only they can understand the depth of emotions. Should destiny require them to deal with loss and grief, what adult can fully understand or speak honestly about the emotional anguish that young girls standing on the dawn of adult life experience? But as the play unfolds, every adult is likely reminded of his or her mental turmoil of adolescence and of their young girls they raised, mentored or taught. There is a certain steady building of empathetic investment into the characters that we experience. By the end of the play, we want each of these girls to go to Harvard or Stanford or heck a community college, indeed any vocation of choice; be on a winning team or not play on one if they so choose; find a partner of choice or be happily single; indeed we want them to fulfill their dreams and grow into kind and happy women. DeLappe’s faultless dialogues on a diverse range of topics, makes these girls so real, we love them like our own. 

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Big kudos to the talented cast, Leila Rosa, Carol Amalia ALban, Taylor Sanders, Alex Bokovikova, Alexandra Velasquez, Ariel Aronica, Annika Nori, Erin Southard, Beca Gilbert, and Janine Saunders Evans. Credits go to MacKenzie Blair and Sara Session for excellent staging. Director Kimberly Mohne Hill with assistance by Elena Maddy has done a fabulous job of giving on stage life to Sarah De Lappe’s The Wolves. This is an absolutely not-to-miss-play of this theater season and will be running The City Lights Theater in San Jose, CA until October 20, 2019. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .

 

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Ashadh ka ek din (on Kalidasa): Naatak Play Review


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.

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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.

 

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Mothers and Sons – Play Review


Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsThe play “Mothers and Sons” by playwright, Terrence McNally and directed by Jeffrey Bracco is a funny and poignant tale of loss and love.  When Katharine (Lillian Bogovich), Andre’s mother shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Andre’s former boyfriend, Cal (Damian Vega), 20 some years after losing her son to AIDS, she is bitter, angry, hurt and in search of a target. Cal has also gone through deep loss but has found love again, in his husband Will (Max Tachis), and they have a son Bud (Izaiah Gutierrez), they deeply love. Still mourning and reeling from the loss of her son, Katharine sinks deeper into gloom at seeing Cal’s life. She asks, “why did your life got better after Andre and why did mine get worst”?

Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsAs per my observation however, this story is less about mothers and sons and more about one mother and her son. It is Katharine’s nature and temperament that has put her into an indefinite period of gloom and bitterness. She describes herself as “I am not a joiner, I did not like to cook, I am a widow”. Katherine could not cultivate intimacy and closeness with either her husband or her son, Andre.  She recalls Andre being “remote” and observes with some contempt that she was relegated to being a mere chauffeur. Many mothers might have experiences of similar moments but they put aside those moments and find more enduring closeness and love with their children.

While Katharine’s temperament may have precluded her from enjoying a close relationship with her son, this story is also wrapped in time when gays did not find acceptance in society and were subjected to biases and stereotypes. Katharine, found it hard to reconcile her preconceived notions about gays. She says, “I hate that word. It could be something nice, joyful. But we lost that battle too”. Sadly, her life is an endless series of battles she has brought onto herself.  And sadly, reeling in her own misery, she misses completely how an entire young generation of her son’s age was lost to AIDS epidemic, “a living, breathing generation, not a footnote in history”. Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsJust when it seems, there would be no hope for Katharine, then in the midst of sorrow, the characters find moments of compassion and glimmer of hope, and even love.  Mothers and Sons is a heartbreaking, emotionally nuanced story of unending mourning and loss and it is also a tale of human compassion where it is never too late to reconcile with one’s loss, only to stumble onto enduring nature of love. Lillian Bogovich as Katharine is absolutely amazing. This is a must-see play if only to watch the brilliant cast playing out the complex human drama with all the emotional nuances and with deep sensitivity. Mothers and Sons is running at the CityLights Theater in San Jose, till February 17, 2019 and tickets can be obtained at www.cltc.org .

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A Piece of History of WWII at The Marsh, SF – Review


Marsh Theater at 1062 Valencia in San Francisco is a friendly, laid back, 110 seat theater attached to a community art center, and is surrounded by stunning shops, cafes, lovely fusion food places, and avant garde artistic shops. The theater itself  is a lovely place for writers and performers to easily develop no-frill performances.

In a recent performance that I attended, “A History of WWII: The D-Day Invasion to the Fall of Berlin”, multi award-winning actor and playwright, John Fisher took the audience on a whirlwind journey of or the WWII from the period between allied invasion of Normandy to the Fall of Berlin. Much happened during the short time period between June, 1944 and May, 1945 that finally marked the end of Hitler and the fall of Berlin.  

This is a fascinating 85 minutes performance that takes the audience through the final year of the war, when some of the most fateful battles were fought. Fisher is recipient of several awards and in this fast paced solo performance, he does an incredible job of taking the audience through many of the war’s most crucial battles, generals, decisions and throws in information about books and movies that have memorialized these key battles.  I will highly recommend this performance for World War II buffs.

Tickets for this show can be obtained at www.themarsh.org .

I was so fascinated by Fisher’s show that afterwards I went through my notes and learned more details about all the fascinating stories he shared in the show.  I have attempted to summarize some of that history below for anyone wanting a ready reference of the crucial final year of the war.

History of WWI: The D-Day Invasion to the Fall of Berlin

Image result for battle of dunkirkThe Battle of Dunkirk, fought in France, in 1940s had shown that the British had great air force and navy but lacked superior army power to win the war. Fortunately, Hitler’s army halted their advance at the time and it gave the Allies sufficient time to organize the Dunkirk Evacuation where more than 330,000 troops were rescued and it allowed the Allies to build a defensive line. United States was sitting on the side lines. On December 7, 1942, Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. US continued to maintain formal neutrality, mostly supplying ammunition. Japanese forces pursuing territorial expansionism, bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. That woke the sleeping giant. The day after Pearl Harbor, the US Congress officially declared war on Japan, and was followed by Britain. Three days later, Germany declared war on the United States. In the end, the US involvement changed the course of the War.

After referring to the history that led to United States joining the war, Fisher goes on play act scenes from the war, as shown in many war movies. In one of the final battles, the allied forces from US, Britain, Canada and Free French forces (later joined by contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece and the Netherlands joined the ground campaign and landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 through parachutes, supported by massive air attacks and naval bombardments. Hitler then made a fateful strategic decision. In the aftermath of a failed coup, he recalled General Van Kluge General Kluge feared Hitler’s wrath and killed himself and that was German army’s great loss. Fisher’s description of the failed coup on Hitler, provided much comic relief, in this war story. It is amazing that his dissenting generals made multiple errors in carrying out one of the most impactful acts of their lives.

Image result for Operation market gardenFisher goes on to tell the story of Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful military operation fought in the Netherlands, planned and led by the British Army, with an objective to seize a series of nine key bridges that could provide the Allies with an invasion route into Germany. While the Allies succeeded in the liberation of several bridges, they failed to secure the last bridge, over the Rhine and thus failed to cross the Rhine. This failed attempt is memorialized in the film, “A Bridge Too Far”. Fisher also gives out names of several reference books on the subject. Germans were still losing but they had not lost the will.

Image result for battle of the bulgeLaunched through the densely forested region in Belgium and Luxembourg, The Battle of the Bulge, was the last major German campaign against the Allies. Germans intended to split the Allied lines.  Due to allied overconfidence and negligence of this region, American forces manned by division of 16 and 17 year olds, bore the greatest brunt of the attack and American forces incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. This has been memorialized in the book, “The Ghost Front” written by twin brothers who survived the attack. Fortunately for the Allies, the battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces. The “Bulge” was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II and the second deadliest battle in American history.

However, until the Battle of the Bulge, America mostly provided resources and fire power. It was Russia that provided the blood, swet, and tears. Stalin was completely oblivious to the suffering and decimation of his troops. Despite significant losses, he continued to provide an inexhaustible supply of troops and ordered Soviet forces to “fight to the last man”, although women also participated in the battle. He also issues, “Not One Step Backward!” rule, which decreed that cowards were to be “liquidated on the spot.” In the end, while America lost slightly more than 400,000 soldiers (killed or missing) and almost no civilians during World War II, the USSR is believed to have lost at least 11,000,000 soldiers (killed and missing) as well as somewhere between 7,000,000 and 20,000,000 million of its civilians. While growing up, Fisher was fascinated by the war and by German generals speaking in interesting accent. But as the story gets closer to the end, the huge cost of war in terms of the lives lost, hangs in the air like a crude reality.Image result for russian army in wwII

Image result for Race to BerlinDespite enormous payout in terms of lives lost, Stalin’s ambitions were not contained and in the final stages of the fall of Berlin, there was a “Race to Berlin”, a sort of competition to enter Berlin between two Soviet marshals who separately commanded their armies to drive their men as fast as they could. Meanwhile American generals Montomery, Patton and even the Brits wanted to continue the advance into Berlin. But Eisenhower made a different choice. He wished to avoid further American casualties which were estimated to be around 100,000 American men, if they were to compete for Berlin. Eisenhower also wished to honor the agreement made with the Soviets at the Yalta Conference and allow Stalin to exert control over Berlin. The Americans leaving Berlin for the Soviets, enabled the Soviets to take the lead, and after the bloody “Battle of Berlin” (where the Soviets engaged in many atrocities and war crimes), the Soviets prevailed.  This forever changed the course of history. Soviets implemented The Iron Curtain, both sides began the race for nuclear arms, and the ensuing Cold War lasted nearly 45 years.

 

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