Naatak

Sandip Roy has a nice writeup on Naatak, the premier Indian Bay Area drama troupe and its latest production, "Everyone Loves A Good Tsunami":

During the week, they wear the uniforms of Silicon Valley -- jeans and shirts, often sporting the logo of the company they work for, from Oracle to Lockheed Martin.

But on weekends these South Asians shed their engineer personas to indulge in their passion -- theater. Some actors have been part of Naatak, one of the Bay Area's most dynamic South Asian theater companies, for 10 years.

Naatak, which means ``drama'' in Hindi, has presented three films and 18 plays in Hindi, Tamil and English. ``Everyone Loves a Good Tsunami'' in English, opens Friday at the Eagle Theater in Los Altos. Sujit Saraf wrote the play after watching the post-tsunami outpouring of ``real and pretended grief.''

``It ridicules our long-distance armchair philanthropy,'' says Saraf. And it highlights how disasters can become ``an opportunity for mediocre artists to perform, and social climbers to socialize.''

In this play, he skewers the ``vanities of the Indian community in the Bay Area'' as two factions of the local India Association jump on ``a fortuitous tsunami'' to hold competing fundraisers.

Sounds like fertile material for a play. Anyone familiar with Indian organizations knows the level of infighting and backbiting present, particularly in the regional groups. Just consider the number of Bengali associations present in the Bay Area alone! Anyway, as the article points out, putting on a play is a significant investment of time and energy:

Many obstacles still exist: After grueling Silicon Valley workweeks, Naatak's all-volunteer cast and crew give up their weekends for two to three months at a time to practice their lines, build sets, design fliers, do makeup and lights, and sell tickets. An actor from one production might become the publicist for another.

From my experience with ENAD, I can attest to the levels of commitment required. The fun part is selling tickets - not! Getting audiences to come to a play in Bengali is a little like herding cats. Everyone has commitments, nemontonno (invitations) or huge work deadlines which just happen to fall on the day of the show itself. Bah! Anyway, on a brighter note, ENAD-ite Sayantanee Dutt gets a mention in the article:


``Tsunami'' is Sayantanee Dutt's first time performing with Naatak. ``My husband helps me,'' says Dutt, who has a 5-year-old. ``I encourage him with his football and cricket and he eggs me on with my theater.''

Congrats Sayantanee and best of luck! Of course, in addition to cricket and football, Sayantanee's husband also happens to be proficient in the small matter of set production and design. But he needs no encouragement there :-)

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- November 29, 2005 11:58 PM // Bay Area , Theater