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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 July 11, 2017
Toba Tek Singh is yet another example of NAATAK company’s efforts to bring bold and audacious plays in Indian languages or with Indian theme, on stage. Very special credits for this amazing production go to brilliant director Sujit Saraf who adapted the original story for stage, to brilliant producer who wears multiple hats, Soumya Agastya and to brilliant music director, Nachiketa Yakkundi. Based off of the original story written by Saadat Hasan Manto, Toba Tek Singh focuses on exchange of inmates in a Lahore asylum, after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The ensuing conflict between India and Pakistan displaced nearly 15 million people and nearly 1 million people died during the migration, leaving behind a bloody legacy. The story of Toba Tek Singh is not only a powerful satire on the events that transpired in the aftermath of the violent division but when observed through the eyes of a madman, one can’t help but feel that he was the only sane person questioning the ridiculousness of the entire situation, in a sea of complete and utter lunacy.
Performed with live music and phenomenal dances by women in colorful costumes, the lunacy of the bloody events feels even more stark. Toba Tek Singh is the largest production in Naatak’s 22 year history. It is amazing and delightful to see the huge entire cast perform their roles flawlessly. But it is the live musicians, under the leadership of Yakkundi and amazing dancers under the leadership of choreographers, Shaira Bhan and Snigdha Singh that this special story was transformed into a grand musical.
When the British left India divided and splintered, clear borders were not announced until after the division, throwing millions of people into chaos and confusion. In an immediate aftermath, there began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Hindus and Sikhs began the trek towards India and millions of Muslims in the opposite direction towards Pakistan in the West and East. While millions and millions were displaced and left homeless, nearly a million never made it as people were massacred during migration, some were abducted and many were raped, forced into sexual slavery, and left disfigured and dismembered. But lunetics housed in the mental asylums were safe from this madness.
The story of Toba Tek Singh begins in 1948, a year after the partition, when the governments of India and Pakistan decide that the lunatics living in the mental asylums must also be exchanged so that Muslim lunatics in India may be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistan may be sent to India. One of the lunatics is a Sikh inmate named Bishan Singh who is to be sent under police escort to India from Lahore. Bishan Singh wants to remain in a country where his home village Toba Tek Singh remains and he asks several people where Toba Tek Singh is. He is alternately told it is in India and then told it is in Pakistan. When he finally believes that his hometown Toba Tek Singh will be part of the new Pakistan, he refuses to go to India and lies down right in the middle, in the no man’s land.
When you watch the play, you somehow feel that Bishan Singh is the only man true to his feelings, unlike Naidu or Jinnah or Gandhi or Nehru or Mountbatten or Edwina or Godse who are all caught up in their own self serving versions and visions of the event. Each one of the other characters use multiple tactics and strategies, plot and craft to manipulate and maneuver the events to fit their vision. Bishan Singh simply wants to live in a place he has known as home because home is where the heart is and to get uprooted from homeland is like getting your heart ripped out.
Toba Tek Singh will be running in Woodside, CA till July 29, 2017. Get your tickets 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 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 .