By Shashi Narasimhiah for indiandownunder.com.au
The month of November is an important landmark for the theatre enthusiasts. Like in previous years, as a part of the 2018 South Asian Theatre Festival (SATF) three culturally and linguistically diverse dramas will be presented by Nautanki Theatre Company at Raffertys Theatre, Riverside Parramatta on 15 and 16 of November 2018.
The three dramas (in alphabetical order) are:
Alvida (Goodbye Mother India) in Fijian Hindi written and directed by Satish Rai and Project Coordination by Surya Khan
Alvida is a play based on true historical events that took place between 1828 and 1916. During these years, the British, who were the rulers of India, uprooted thousands of Indians from their Motherland, tricked and forced them into slavery and relocated and shipped them to far-off colonies like Fiji, Jamaica, South Africa and Caribbean Island etc. The play takes place on one such ship called Jumna where young Indians are being transported to Fiji as indentured labour.
Booha Kholo (The Locked Door) in Punjabi, written and directed by Uzma Gillani
Booha Kholo is a poignant & moving play in which the protagonist is dealing with extreme biases and discrimination due to his gender orientation. He is a misfit in his own family as well as the society at large. The play is set in a strict traditional society where there is extreme intolerance for anybody ‘different’. Will the door that has been locked on him be finally opened? Let us see….
HaLavanDagLlu (The Nightmares) in Kannada based on a play by the famous poet and playwright Chandrashekhara Kambara and directed by Veena and Sudarshan of Anivaasi Arts Collective which is a Sydney based Kannada drama troupe.
Halavandagalu is set in the aftermath of the Indian Emergency of 1970’s, portrays the dangerous trend of collision between the institutions of democracy. The husband wakes up one morning and reveals his dream to his wife, in his dream he inadvertently…. The story raises pertinent questions like where does all this fear and anxiety lead us to? Where do the innocent souls caught in a whirlwind end up? Only when you watch it will be clear….
Selection of the above dramas is based on the current relevance of the message the drama intends to convey while also ensuring optimum and fair representation of the language, culture, religion and diversity.
Nautanki Theatre Company is a well-known Western Sydney based organisation directing their efforts towards encouraging and promoting South Asian cultural development and participation in Sydney. Nautanki Theatre Company is a common banner to bring together the artistic style, language and cultural sensibility, community engagement, education and training through live performing arts. The Nautanki journey which began from humble grass roots community level and has now evolved as an independent theatre company practicing cross cultural story telling. Nautanki’s efforts so far has resulted in opportunities for more than 200 actors, performers, crew and support staff with audience base of over 5000. Nautanki reaches out to more than 100,000 people based in Western Sydney every year through their various cultural programs. The main objective is to work with “CaLd” (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community, refugee or migrant population facilitating social inclusion/integration while also creating a voice to showcase their cultural identity. Working specifically with South Asian migrant community, Nautanki Theatre Company are in the process of creating a bigger audience base representing the ever changing demography of Parramatta, Blacktown, Hills District, South West Sydney and parts of Inner City. Nautanki also encourages this new CaLD audience to join with greater Australian theatre goers to attend and support live theatre in Western Sydney area.
Neel Banerjee and Reema Gillani
I had the opportunity of catching up with the Production Coordinator Reema Gillani and the Artistic Concept Designer Neel Banerjee for an in-depth understanding of SATF 2018, Nautanki Theatre Company, their inspiration, mission, resourcing and future plans.
2018 SATF is in its third year and one of its kind presented by NautankI, the first one in 2016 included three stage performances in Marathi, Tamil and Bangla. The second one in 2017 included performances in Gujarati, Sinhalese and Urdu. While the various sub-continental communities are producing and watching performances in their own languages, says Reema, “There is no precedence of one watching the other’s performance,” adding, “We would like to see them communicating with each other on an artistic platform – that is what SATF aims to achieve”.
Nautanki Theatre Company has a vision to focus on South Asian art creative, greater and main stream South Asian representation on Australian stage and making the Australian stage diverse in line with the recent and ongoing demographic change. Reema says Australian theatre, “Has no South Asian representation despite large number of theatre companies in Sydney alone” and she has the vision of “bringing diversity to Australian Stage”. Neel adding that Nautanki has a “continuously expanding vision”
On Nautanki’s journey, Neel felt a tinge of nostalgia when he stated, “It has been a long journey so far which started as community theatre and branched out to being a theatre company”. What is the inspiration behind this initiative? Neel says, “Create storytelling, creating plays focussed on South Asian diaspora as also bridging the disparity gap in representation of South Asia in the greater Australian theatre”.
Neel further mentions that the main “fuel” behind their success is the passion of the founders, organisers, performers and crew. The economic sustainability largely depends on voluntary contributions, putting in free hours and of course the patrons or audience. He says, “While there is no ongoing grant, the organisers have mobilised some limited funding approvals from various Government Departments and Agencies such as Parramatta Council, Multicultural NSW, Stockland Care Community Grant, Create NSW etc. The way forward for NTC would be for the public to support the organisation by participating in the presentations such as the South Asian Theatre Festival.”
Reema says the Nautanki Theatre Company is a “well-oiled machine” with future plans of Nautanki collaborating with overseas artists visiting Australia, with other community organisations and expanding the local audience base. They are already planning ahead into 2019 and 2020. Let us wish The Nautanki Theatre Company a great future and SATF 2018 a grand success.
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