Natya Bharati’s Fall Production Showcases Rib-tickling Plays

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November 1, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville – Natya Bharati, the Washington area’s foremost and preeminent theater group on October 26th presented its Fall production on a rib-tickling note with two comedies eliciting laughs galore and a heart-warming response from a discerning audience.

November 1, 2012

By Geeta Goindi

Rockville – Natya Bharati, the Washington area’s foremost and preeminent theater group on October 26th presented its Fall production on a rib-tickling note with two comedies eliciting laughs galore and a heart-warming response from a discerning audience.

Artistes of the comedy play, ‘Save-A-Marriage Bureau’, presented by Natya Bharati.  From left to right are: Rita Pahwa, Avantika Gupta, director Nisha Narayan and Niyati Pandya

The plays – ‘Save-A-Marriage Bureau’, written and directed by Nisha Narayan, and “Trikon Ka Chautha Kon’, directed by Dilip Parikh, and produced by Manoj Tiwari – boasted crisp, witty dialogues coupled with enthralling performances which kept members of the audience glued to their seats and riveted to the action!  Both avid and inclined theater-goers whole-heartedly supported Natya Bharati’s latest offerings, staged Friday and Saturday in the Jewish Community Center.

‘Trikon Ka Chautha Kon’ was originally written in Marathi by Aditya Joshi and translated in Hindi by Stuti Banerjee, of Columbia, for the Washington audience.  The original piece is set in Pune; in the adapted version, the scene shifts to Delhi.

Director, Dilip Parikh, speaking with INDIA THIS WEEK, gave a gist of the storyline: “The play is about a wife (Soniya Arya) who is already dead, but she is not really dead for her husband (Gaurav Basu).  He is being badgered by his wife to get their daughter (Priya Wasnikar), now 23 years old, married, to get a ‘kundali’ (horoscope) and a husband for her”.  So, he finds a father-son (Govind Modi-Vikram Kolluru) astrologer duo.  The son, known as Jyotish 2.0, generates a kundali on his computer which proclaims that whosoever marries the daughter will kill her father.  It is left to the wife to disclose the discrepancy in the timing of her daughter’s birth.  A new kundali is prepared which reverses the order: now the father-in-law will kill his son-in-law.

Artistes of the comedy play, ‘Trikon Ka Chautha Kon’, presented by Natya Bharati.  From left to right are: producer Manoj Tiwari, Gaurav Basu, Soniya Arya, Vikram Kolluru, director Dilip Parikh, Priya Wasnikar and Govind Modi

When INDIA THIS WEEK, queried the director about the title of the play.  “It is a typical triangle between the astrologer’s son, the husband and his dead wife; the daughter is the fourth angle”, Parikh explained.

We were curious to know if it is difficult to direct a comedy.  “Yes, sometimes, it is very difficult if the timing is not correct for the dialogue delivery”, he replied.  “The play has very short dialogues.  The way you convey is through the timing and action, as opposed to a historical play where you have literary dialogues with which you can impress the audience”.

We caught up with Nisha Narayan prior to the staging of ‘Save-A-Marriage Bureau’, on Friday night, and she delineated the plot of her play: The marriage bureau is run by Seva Ram (Ramesh Sood) who does not possess a sharp business acumen.  His friend (Pranav Pandya) offers to help him out on the condition that he makes him a partner.  The two try to run the business by hook or by crook, luring and then fleecing their clients (Harkesh Manocha, Avantika Gupta, Anamitro Banerjee and Rita Pahwa).

Along with Niyati Pandya and Abhishek Narain, the play has seven actors, all based in the Washington area.  “My cast is very dedicated, very supportive”, Narayan told us.

She mentioned that the play was first presented by Ekal Vidyalaya in April.  “The response was so good, we had these two additional performances under the Natya Bharati banner”, she said.

We asked her about the challenges she faced as a writer and director, donning two caps.  Narayan admitted, “It is difficult to write a comedy” and develop each character.  Still, she has always written light-hearted scripts.  “Comedy is my passion”, she averred.

A scene from the comedy play, ‘Save-A-Marriage Bureau’, presented by Natya Bharati.  From left to right are: Harkesh Manocha, Ramesh Sood and Pranav Pandya

The plays are another feather in the cap of Natya Bharati President Manoj Tiwari and this illustrious theater group.  Regarding the Fall production, Tiwari told us that more new talent has been introduced than ever before under this banner.  “The artistes and backstage support people come from every region of India and truly display unity in diversity”, he said.  “Not every artiste comes with a perfect command over their acting, but we try to work around minor shortcomings in the interest of the bigger objective and evolve together. Not many people know that Natya Bharati is the longest-standing Indian theater group in the US, supported solely by volunteers and patrons, and I attribute its longevity to diversity”.

Priya Wasnikar informed us that she recently joined Natya Bharati, desirous to act in plays, and landed a pivotal role in ‘Trikon Ka Chautha Kon’.  “Both the producer and director were extremely welcoming and warm to all of us”, she said.  “From the very first meeting, we felt at home”.

Priya described her role as that of a spoilt brat, young and carefree, even insolent towards her father.  But, there is a dichotomy.  She has to relent, come off her high horse and cajole her father to allow her to marry the man of her choice.  “It was a lot of fun, sometimes challenging to convincingly play two conflicting characteristics” all within a short span, she told us.

Priya mentioned that most of the cast and crew were new.  “We got along very well and had a lot of fun during rehearsals”, she said.  “At the same time, we put in a lot of hard work to get our characters right.  Our director, Mr. Dilip Parikh, was very patient with all of us and helped a lot during this process.  We rehearsed on weekends for almost two-and-a-half months and sometimes on weekday evenings which was challenging as we are all professionals with hectic work schedules.  I would like to mention that Mr. Manoj Tiwari, along with our director, provided valuable tips and suggestions right from body language to voice modulation.  At the end of it all, I had a great experience and a lot of fun while practicing and performing this play for Natya Bharati and I look forward to doing this again soon”.

Cast and crew of the comedy play, ‘Save-A-Marriage Bureau’, presented by Natya Bharati

Similar sentiments were voiced by Rita Pahwa who plays the role of a bank manager (Prabha Seth) in ‘Save-A-Marriage Bureau’.  On the personal front, Prabha is fed up of her timid husband and overbearing mother-in-law and seeks the services of the marriage bureau to find a rich, brave, handsome spouse.  She is extremely upset, but easily placated with compliments.

Rita Pahwa described her experience of working with Natya Bharati as “phenomenal”.  She stressed that the “director, Nisha Narayan, brought out the best in us.  We didn’t have enough time to rehearse, but we all worked hard and the director doubly so.  The cast was very cooperative, extremely helpful.  We all felt like a big, happy family.  In fact, the entire Natya Bharati team was very supportive.  Manoj Tiwari is easy-going, hard-working, very tolerant and  accommodating”, she said.

Nisha Narayan, who has been actively involved with Natya Bharati ever since it was founded in 1984, told us that “drama is my passion like everyone else” affiliated with the theater group.  “It’s a wonderful organization, very dedicated”, she said.  “Everyone jells together, works together.  That’s the best part about Natya Bharati”.

Like Narayan, Dilip Parikh enjoys a long association with the organization spanning over two decades.  He recalled how the founding members, among them being Dr. T. Srikantaiah, were dedicated to theater.  “What is interesting is that everybody who was involved was there because of their love of theater”, he said.  “They were from all over the Indian subcontinent.  There was no regional thinking.  There were a lot of different accents and all were accepted.  The focus was purely on theater.  That is one of the main reasons why, I think, it has thrived.  People know that we present quality performances”.