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October 28, 2009 > Naatak's ode to Satyajit Ray

Naatak's ode to Satyajit Ray

A collection of four plays in English

By Mona Shah

Naatak, which literally means drama, or a modern play divided into parts and scenes, is an organization of Indian theatre enthusiasts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1995 by UC Berkeley and Stanford students, it is a labor of love, their passion fueling thought provoking plays and independent movies.

In their latest production, Naatak's director Kamala Subramaniam has adapted the famed Satyajit Ray's short stories into four short plays. They are - Bhuto, Mr. Eccentric, Pikoo's Diary and Patol Babu Filmstar.

Satyajit Ray, an Indian filmmaker and among the dozen or so great masters of world cinema, is known for his humanistic approach to cinema. He made his films in Bengali, a language spoken in the eastern state of India - West Bengal. And yet, his films are of universal interest. As an Academy Award winner, Ray's work is sure to pique the interest of more than just the Indian diaspora, attracting a larger and more diverse audience for the adapted plays.

Ray's fascination for the supernatural, his bizarre characters, choice of plots and the humor in his short stories have captivated readers for generations. Each story - whether about an aging actor who thinks a bit part in a movie is his ticket to stardom, or a mercurial magician who has to compete with a puppet to regain lost glory - has a magical effect.

The plays in Naatak's "Patol Babu Filmstar" span different genres to cater to everyone's palate. While short plays have their challenges of replacing sets and limited time for character development, they are distinct and intriguing in their own fashion. The production team, led by Juhi Mohan, has done a superb job of creating sets that effectively transform the audience to an India of the seventies.

"Patol Babu Filmstar" is the story of an aging amateur actor for whom a walk-on part in a movie is a ticket to stardom. An old, bald and stout man who once, in his youth performed on stage and then settled to live an average life is suddenly enthralled with this offer and gives it his very best. "Pikoo's Dairy" is the story of a young boy who maintains a dairy whose entries reveal an intricate web of emotions and tangled events.

For generations now, auteurs have kept us riveted to their short stories and this one is no different. Watch as the sets seamlessly transform from dark to lively and the characters serve up emotions that range from terror to humor.

Patol Babu Filmstar
A collection of four plays in English
Adapted and Directed by Kamala Subramaniam
Produced by Juhi Mohan

Sunday, November 1, 5 p.m.
Friday, November 6, 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 7, 8 p.m.
Venue: Cubberley Theater
4000 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto

Sunday, November 15
2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Venue: Intersection for the Arts
446 Valencia Street, San Francisco

General $20, VIP $35
Buy online at Email, or call Ashok at (408) 296-6579
Children under 8 will not be admitted | Flash photography not allowed.

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