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Local Thespians Shine

October 2004
Local Thespians Shine

Incredible! The fact that working professionals with a love for theater were able to stage satirist Sharad Joshi's "Ek Tha Gadha" is testimony to their talent. Saakaar, an Atlanta-based theater group, performed "Ek Tha Gadha" at two different locations in the city on Sep 4, 11 and 12.

Sharad Joshi is credited for having written a gamut of plays and TV serials like "Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi". In this production one witnesses the dramatist's characteristic wit. Written over two decades ago the story brings to light the exploitation of the common man at the hands of machinating politicians. The theme transcends time, countries and cultures.

From the opening act, the contrast between the ruling class and the subservient masses is brought into sharp focus. The egotistical Nawab, forever surrounded by his pontificating "chintaks," is constantly scheming, mostly about how to continue to push up his own stock amongst his constituents. At the other end of the spectrum a roadside paanwalla and his customers deliberate over their quotidian chores and woes. The play is a rib-tickling comedy on the surface that unearths horrifying truths about how dispensable the common man is to those in power.

Under the astute direction of Anuraag Misraraj this two-act political satire was hugely entertaining. As the name suggests, the plot revolves around a donkey named Alladad. A dhobi's trusted helper, Alladad's demise leaves his master crestfallen. Like water flowing around rocks the news of Alladad's passing makes its way to the Nawab ? a crafty leader who will stop at nothing to garner goodwill and political mileage. In an attempt to portray himself as a caring custodian of the masses, the Nawab proclaims that he will personally give shoulder to Alladad's corpse at a funeral fitting for a royal. Why would the Nawab orchestrate a donkey's funeral? Mistaken identity. He is led to believe that Alladad is a person!

It turns out there indeed is a person by the name of Alladad who incidentally is in perfect health. What does the Nawab do when Alladad is presented before him? How does the Nawab save face in front of the teeming crowds that have congregated for Alladad's elaborate funeral procession? I'll let you play president and decide for yourself.

The talented thespians deliver Joshi's sharp-witted dialogues with practiced ease. Amitabh Sharma, a seasoned actor, plays the quintessential Kotwal who bullies people for a living but is not beyond the fangs of superior powers. His spirited performance was very entertaining. Swaroop Nyshadham has much acting experience under his belt and here, he morphs into the character of the Nawab with diabolic finesse. Nyshadham could teach present-day politicians a lesson or two ? he was charismatic, impish and absolutely convincing. Puja Mathur's portrayal of a sabziwali was impeccable.

In an attempt to present the drama in traditional Indian form, Misraraj interspersed music and dance in both acts. Kumud Savla's graceful dances and Sandeep Savla's music earned much applause. When Khabar asked a spectator in the audience to comment on the play, she said, "I enjoyed it because it was heavy but funny."

Saakar, a collective formed by local talent, crystallized a year ago and has staged three plays since then. Addressing the audience, producer and director Misraraj said, "We attempt to stage both Indian and Western productions." In the past Saakaar has presented "The Odd Couple" and "Rumors", both by Neil Simon and "Ballabhpur Ki Roopkatha" by Badal Sarkar. One hopes to see many more productions from these gifted performers in the future. Applause!

-Reetika Nijhawan

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