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March 12, 2008 > Sultana Daku: A musical comedy

Sultana Daku: A musical comedy

By Anuja Seith

Enjoy a real life story of a robber from forests of Uttar Pradesh, an Indian State in reel life. Naatak, an Indian theatre group in Bay Area presents "Sultana Daku," a musical comedy in Nautanki style, identified as "Swang" before the twentieth century. This term is still used to refer to the art of mimicry and impersonation in general as well as to a specific skit.

"Nautanki," was originally the name of a heroine and the musical stage-play based on her story came into wide parlance replacing the term "Swang" around 1920. One of the most popular nautankis, the play is about a confrontation between the admirable underclass hero and agents of a colonial government woven together with music, comic interludes, songs and poetic verses.

"It captures the real life drama of this criminal who was a hero to the poor. He would rob the rich and distribute the wealth among the poor," said Rajiv Neema, Marketing Director of Naatak. The British police official assigned to incarcerate him is constantly challenged by Sultana Daku, contributing to dramatic and comic elements. The cast of 12-15 characters and a production crew 8-10 incorporates authentic nautanki style music which includes kawali, rag, doha and gana.

According to Neema the music has been recorded and provided by Pundit Ram Dayal Sharma, a teacher of traditional music school of Nautanki and other Indian folk music genre and his son Dr. Devendra Sharma, assistant professor at California State University-Fresno who is also a practicing performer, writer, and director of nautanki and swang--folk musical theatre genres of north India, directed the play.

"This play is India's Robin Hood adventure which is full of excitement and thrill," adds Neema. Its backdrop of paintings of the scenes on the curtain and the colorful Indian costume, jewelry and makeup adds a realistic touch to the performances. This may be a rare feast for senses and eyes for any one who loves theatre or simply wants to explore and enjoy a different culture.

Background information on Nautanki has been taken from

Sultana Daku: A musical comedy
Saturday, March 22
6 p.m.
Sunday, March 23
3 p.m.
CSU East Bay Theatre
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd, Hayward

Saturday, March 29
6 p.m.
Canada College, Main Theatre
4200 Farm Hill Blvd., Redwood City

Tickets: General $20, VIP $35 (includes assigned seating and complimentary snacks and drinks).

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