not a modern
A scene from the play
A55 COMMUNITY NEWS
N R Parthasarathi, India’s consul general in San Francisco, center
About 300 people thronged the Cubberley Theater in Palo Alto, California, November 6,
to watch the Hindi play Aathvaa Sarg (Eighth Chapter), by Bay Area theater group
The 90-minute play was directed by Manish Sabu and produced by Pradeep Gupta.
Naatak was formed in 1995 by a group of tech engineers and entrepreneurs in the San
Francisco Bay Area. Started with a handful of theater lovers, it boasts of 300 registered
members and 50 active members.
Rajiv Nema of Naatak explained to India Abroad that the group’s 37th production is
about the conflict with self-appointed “protectors of the faith” after the ancient Indian
poet Kalidas included an intimate scene between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the
eighth canto of his epic poem Kumarsambhav. Set in the 4th century Gupta empire,
Aathvaa Sarg is a story of artistic freedom versus censorship. The debate is remarkably
similar to contemporary controversies, Nema pointed out. The kind of censorship experienced by Kalidas is still experienced by artists like the late M F Husain or writers like
Salman Rushdie, he said.
Nema argued that freedom of speech is a must in a civil and democratic society, Arts
and culture are necessary for a thriving, happy, educated society and to hold power, the
leader (in Aathvaa Sarg, king Vikramaditya) has to take decisions to placate the fundamentalists, even though they may not agree with his or her personal beliefs.
“We don’t focus on what the audience will like or which genre will sell the most tick-
ets,” Nema said. “We focus on what we like and what we will enjoy rehearsing, produc-
ing and presenting.”
Among the audience at Aathvaa Sarg’s opening night was N Parthasarathi, India’s
consul general in San Francisco.
‘I had truly not expected this high caliber of Indian theater in the San Francisco Bay
Area,’ he told the audience. ‘But today’s performance has definitely surprised me.’
Seek the truth, thespian
M K Raina tells Diaspora enthusiasts
Theater personality M K Raina had a piece
of advice for newbies in the field: ‘Read
your script multiple times.’
Raina was speaking to the San
Francisco-based theater group Naatak
October 23 at Naatak House — the leased
headquarters of local theater group
Naatak — in Santa Clara, California.
About 30 people, many of them tech engi-
neers passionate about theater, attended
the one-day workshop.
During the workshop, Raina and Naatak
members discussed everything from poet-
ry to language, Kashmir to Bollywood.
Raina spoke about his plays like Kabira
Khada Bazar Mein, Mahatma and the
Poet, Parchhaiyan, and Andha Yug. Asked
how he chose his subjects, he said he
always chose something that challenged
him, excited him in some way. He likened
a play to an iceberg, only the top of which
is visible to the common observer. The
bulk beneath, he said, is the performers’
task. ‘You have to reach the truth,’ he said.
blanks as well — what was her life like since
she left East Germany and moved to the
US? What has she been through? After a
lot of research, we found her and our documentary took on a whole new purpose and
direction. We realized we needed to make it
a feature-length documentary, which is
something we had considered before, but
not taken too seriously.
How did you raise the money for this proj-
ect? A documentary of this kind could cost
The process of making this documentary
was difficult, especially in terms of financ-
ing and our professional reach. Since it was
a first feature film for all three of us, we
went in knowing little and learning a lot as
we went along. There were many hiccups,
ups and downs, but the way the story was
unraveling kept us motivated to make the
film happen. We ran a fundraising cam-
paign on Kickstarter to raise a portion of
our budget and it’s thanks to all those gen-
erous people who contributed that we were
able to finish the film. The rest of the film
was self-financed, which also became tough
considering we were all students.