The year didn’t start in January 2016 for Nautanki Theatre Company. I have to go back a few months back in 2015. In fact, for an Independent Theatre Company like Nautanki the calendar is from November to November, almost.
January in 2016 saw the entire production running around in a dying urge of creation. Actors busy doing their lines, creative team designing set, prop and lighting. Lenore Robertson calmly directing the entire ensemble which in later half of January presented 3 successful shows of The Last Dance at Dum Dum by Ayub Khan-Din at Lennox Theatre in Parramatta.
Nautanki company had two successful venture with School kids this year as well. A dance and mask making workshop in April and another workshop in June on Learning Theatre through Games was two great opportunities to work with children and young kids.
While company had a less successful year securing grants but our vision that was set a year ago, was firm. We worked with available resources, planned smartly and decided to concentrate more on our niche audience rather sucking up to the grant officers who are clueless about South Asian Diasporic Theatre. A grant officer while giving me feedback on company’s unsuccessful application suggested that our application could have been better with a community support letter from an Indian organisation. If I were 5-year younger I would call this grant officer a moron and tell him to bugger off but with age my tolerance has grown I suppose. I corrected him not to attached a tag ‘Indian’ with the company and asked whether he would look for a supporting letter from Greek community when some other company decides to present Antigone? I did cut short the conversation after that. I could tell you that grant officer was not embarrassed, he just didn’t understand what I was meaning or where did he stand!
Despite all hardships, we managed to get some support and carried on with 1st South Asian in language Theatre Festival. Two nights of successful presentation of 3 short plays was more than an experience. South Asian community backed the festival well and took the opportunity of seeing 3 plays in language free of charge. The audience failed to understand Pay-As-You-Think concept introduced by Nautanki company however we were able to create a theatre awareness within them. Our community connectors did a fantastic job directing audience to Rafferty’s Theatre for two consecutive shows.
Reema Gillani and Sunny Singh joined in Production and Marketing units of the company in 2016. Avijit Sarkar’s advices on organisation and projects from time to time is greatly appreciated. Manisha Jolie Amin as Executive Director of Nautanki Company still takes my phone calls and answers my questions, she promises to continue doing.
2017 is just around the corner. For Nautanki Theatre Company coming year will be even bigger. We are staring year 2017 by presenting a 10 minutes’ play in Short+Sweet Theatre Festival in 1st week of February followed by playwriting program. Company will have its annual production in August, South Asian Theatre Festival in November, workshops and discussion forums from time to time.
On behalf of Nautanki Theatre Company I wish everyone a happy and safe new year.
~ Neel Banerjee | Artistic Concept Designer, Nautanki Theatre
From the rehearsal room of play Still Alive
Nautanki: Could you tell us a little about you and your Theatre group?
Napoleon: I was born in Bombay, in a catholic family. My father was a teacher in Marathi school. He always encouraged us to read books. Somehow I started reading books about dramas and plays. I found it very interesting. In my young age I started acting on stage. When I realised this field is not as easy as I thought, I decided to study more about acting and attended some workshops. I have also participated in one- act-play competitions and once won acting awards on state level. I have also written one- act- plays and won best playwright award.
I migrated to Australia in 1990. I never thought that I will get an opportunity to act and direct plays in Australia, but if you have a will then there is a way and your talent can be used anywhere in the world. I was very happy to hear about Sydney Marathi Association (MASI). They had been presenting a lot of cultural programs including Marathi plays. I joined MASI in 1992. Since then I have performed and directed many plays including some one acts.
Nautanki: How did you get involved with South Asian Theatre Festival 2016?
Napoleon: One day the phone rings “…this is Neel Banerjee speaking”. He introduced himself and told me about Nautanki and what his plans were. I could not believe that Nautanki theatre was giving me an opportunity to perform in their SATF 2016. I said YES to him straightaway without thinking even though I had already one big project in my hand.
Nautanki: How many cast members are there in your play ?
Napoleon: We have 8 cast members in this one act Marathi play. Marathi people are from Maharashtra state of India and they are very proud of cultural plays. Marathi people took their dramatic art all around the world. Marathi plays are more popular in Maharashtra. Casts in this play are very talented and enthusiastic. They are ready to sacrifice anything they can for this art-form.
Nautanki: Why People should come and see Ukirda?
Napoleon: Ramesh Pawar is a famous playwright in India who writes in Marathi language. In this one act play titled “Ukirda” (Rubbish) he has chosen a very emotional topic about cast-ism in India. How the low caste people get treated by high caste, and how they have to fight for their rights. Why do we ignore God’s creation and follow man made selfish rules. There is a great message to take away for all of us from this play. This play is very cleverly and powerfully presented without using any props on the stage.
Napoleon Almeida is the director of the play Ukirda.
Nautanki: Could you tell us little about you and your Theatre group?
Srini: Sydney Nadaga Priya (SNP) was founded in 2008 by a group of like-minded Tamil drama enthusiasts with the aim of bringing quality Tamil theatre to the Tamil-speaking community in Sydney. While other forms of South Asian performing arts such as classical and contemporary music and dance have enjoyed growing patronage and exposure in Sydney for many years now, there was seen to be a clear dearth of Tamil drama in Sydney and other Australian cities. SNP was formed in part to fill this niche and to showcase contemporary Tamil societal themes and challenges using only local talent.
Nautanki: How did you get involved with South Asian Theatre Festival (SATF) 2016?
Srini: Mr. Neel Banerjee of Nautanki Theatre reached out to SNP early this year with the concept of bringing multiple regional languages under one umbrella and this concept appealed SNP instantly. We are happy and honoured to be part of this maiden venture.
Nautanki: How many cast are in your play?
Srini: There are total 5 characters in the play. A middle aged couple, a Lord and his two ministers.
Nautanki: Why people should come and see Nettandu, The Leap Year?
Srini: Making adjustments/alterations to system and process in something we evidence many do in our daily lives…. What happens in Devalok…the celestial space? A fantasy tale on the concept of leap year is what people can expect to watch.
NK Srini is the playwright and director of the play Nettandu.
Nautanki: Could you tells us little about your Theatre group?
Asim: Well, our theatre group is really an informal one. We group together with interested participants from the Sydney Bengali community as and when a particular project demands. We’ve been performing Bengali plays at the annual drama festival in Sydney organised by Bengali Association of NSW for the past nine years. We have also performed ten minute English plays at the Short+Sweet Sydney Theatre festival for the last five years. This year we were successful to win our group stage and get into the finals (as top 10 out of 160 plays) at this festival.
Nautanki : How did you get involved with South Asian Theatre Festival (SATF) 2016?
Asim: Neel Banerjee, the founder and artistic director of Nautanki Theatre, asked me earlier this year if I’ll be interested to participate in SATF 2016. The concept of presenting a number of plays in different languages to the audience with a common cultural thread appeared to me a very innovative idea well worth giving a try. My cast members were equally enthusiastic.
Nautanki: How many cast are in your play?
Asim: The play has four cast comprising an elderly couple and a younger couple.
Nautanki: Why people should come and see A Time Machine?
Asim: The play is written by Mr. Bratya Basu, a well-known playwright of contemporary Bengali plays. The play deals with our age old desire to be able to look at our past as well as future at the press of a button if only we had a perfect time machine. However, as the play reveals, how you deal with the reality of our lives at the present.
This will be the very first staging of this play in Sydney. The ten minute English version (done by myself) of this play has also been selected to be performed in the Short+Sweet Sydney Theatre festival in 2017.
Asim Das is a man of many talents and this time he will take you on journey to future.
Now this year has gone so fast and everyone agrees with it. We at Nautanki have been working on this exciting project for quite some time now. A cross culture experience to wider audience is our goal and that’s when South Asian Theatre Festival (SATF as we like to call it) idea was conceived.
This is the first year for SATF and we hope we will continue on this journey, we will showcase three or more short plays in its native tongue. For audience it a one of kind experience to see something different in 90 minutes and all under one roof.
I have to give you couple of reasons why should you attend. A) This is event bringing something new to our community, we are introducing the concept Pay – as- you- think, where you will evaluate the performances and pay what you like. B) Is for theatre lovers who will see and will receive a charming experience and to watch something extra-ordinary without the language they are familiar with.
Let me tell you what’s in our basket. A Bangla play directed by Asim Das will represent Bengalis from India and Bangladesh, a Tamil play directed by N.K. Srini that will find common lingual identity of migrants from South India and Sri Lanka and a Marathi play directed by Napoleon Almeida who has Goan background. This festival is hopes to bring community together and appreciate each other’s art form
Thanks to Riverside Theatre in Parramatta who will be hosting this year festival. This 2 days festival will be held from Thursday 24th and Friday 25th November 2016 at 7.30 pm.
Collect Entry Tickets on 02-8839 3399
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The energy in this performance of Bedtime Story is palpable. The beginning and ending work extremely well. It must have been a hugely difficult task to edit Nagakar’s play to a reasonable length for Sydney audiences.
The undoubted star is Avantika Tomar who plays princess Draupadi, a challenging role, with great skill and credibility. Tomar injects drama into her performance without tipping into melodrama. She is a forceful presence on the stage; and has perfect diction and voice projection. I thought her performance faultless.
Other standout performances are by Neel Banerjee and Suparna Mallick who have charisma as well as that elusive quality of stage presence and the ability to make the role their own. Also Rhea Daithankar and the narrator/commentator who added his own unique dimension to the play. “Krishna” is portrayed with suitable impudence.
The excellent creative use of space had performers popping up from unexpected places, which kept the audience on their toes.
While some actors had convincing facial expressions and body language, their diction and/or voice projection let them down, making it difficult for the audience to hear their lines.
The first half of the play might be somewhat confusing at times for those not familiar with the stories of the Mahabharata. Perhaps the narrator/commentator, who already interacts with the audience, could provide more commentary on the myths and backstory, to complement the visual projections? The second half is tight, focused and easier to follow. It had great impact.
Who knows, maybe the play might encourage people to read some of the Mahabharata, which is now even available on ibooks? It’s great to see the India-Australia connection growing and developing through the arts.
Congratulations to Director Joyraj Bhattacharjee, to Neel Banerjee and to all the cast and crew for bringing a new exciting dimension to Australian theatre.
Sharon Rundle June 2015
Photo: Sharon Rundle and Kiran Nagarkar in 2012 at UWS
When I first read the play I sort of got the gist, but from day to day practice it has begun to emerge as masterfully scripted with cutting edge insight into the dark side of human nature that dresses up in conniving niceness and charm to serve greed, ambition and blind personal interest at the cost of true advancement.
It is a play that strips bare to reveal the cruelty, injustice, temporal greed, exploitation, deception and abuse of ill gotten privilege dressing itself up as something good, the same as found in today’s world and which continues to undermine humanity’s true entitlements of happiness and the things that really matter.
It may appear trite to say, but is true: No-one really wins. Everyone loses a war. And that for a long time to follow. The aftermath being a hard and painful way to undergo some measure of awakening from spoon fed carrot and stick fantasies that keeps us all chained to the marketing ploys of unscrupulous and sophisticated thieves that invariably seek to rule, but lack the qualifications that count.
Kiran Nagarkar’s BEDTIME STORY transcends the ages and holds a mirror up to human conscience for those with the guts to confront the pain of truth and the extent to which they too are either to some extent guilty or have been beguiled. Or both.
I sincerely hope we actors can do the play justice.