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May 8, by Anu Garg Every time I go through another round of rehearsal, another light bulb goes on in my mind, another layer in the play comes to the surface. I realize that Sharad Joshi was no everyday writer. Each character has a distinct personality. No generics here. Not only does he have a name, he has his own mind, he has whims. He moves when he feels like it. Although the promotional materials made me think I was attending a light-hearted comedy, what I experienced was a well-performed and deeply thought provoking political satire.
The play was a powerful critique of government and its asymmetric impact on the citizenry. It was equally unsparing of the amorphous, nameless and ruled masses and their inability to impose any limits on the elites.
The performance made me think of how those in institutional roles co-opt their limited mandates for private rather than public good in the process reducing the government to a club where few gain and the poor lose. Satires work well when the undercurrents are exposed in the greater narrative structure. One theme that resonated with the audience referenced the limitations that governments impose on free speech and free will.
Simply nodding to the nawab and the kotwal rather than recording dissent is the ultimate surrender of free will and the first symptom of rot in a political system.
Another theme that was well represented focused on how the experience of the common man is politicized by power groups in search of symbols. Rather than the calculus of crime and punishment, the nawab ultimately cares only about the symbolism of the death of the common man. The play was a professional effort by several enthusiastic volunteers of a burgeoning South Asian theater community in Seattle. Mukesh Dimri was masterful in the role of nawab exhibiting a profound stage presence along with the ability to remember hundreds of lines.
Gurvinder played the corrupt kotwal with convincing elan. Satires work well when the level of humor is optimal. Too little and it sounds like a critique. Too much and you have lost depth and nuance. In this case, the humor made the play more watchable and accessible.
Perhaps, a few attendees did not get the depth of some of the jokes- but that is to be expected with any satire. Overall, a professional job by all involved. In addition to the actors and those who worked behind the scenes, congratulations are due to the prolific Agastya Kohli for making drama relevant to the South Asian community in the Seattle area. He obtained his PhD from the University of Arizona in marketing and economics.
He has developed and taught several innovative courses related to E-Commerce to both MBA and undergraduate students. He has written extensively about E-Commerce. His writings in the business press have appeared on Clickz. His comments have been featured in press articles in outlets such as Marketing Computers, Direct Magazine, Wired. Sandeep also works in the areas of generic advertising and non-profit marketing.
Watch and laugh as the Navab and his advisors endeavor toward self-deification with a magnanimous and almost certainly unprecedented gesture of a state funeral for none other than a donkey, misunderstood by them to be an ordinary man adored by the public.
Keep laughing as they realize their mistake and scramble to fix it…or not. I suspect for as much his entertainment as for the audience, director Agastya Kohli has done an exceptional job of assembling and inspiring talented cast and crew to set alight the stage with this story.
You know the play is good when the audience is audibly laughing — and so is the director! Mukesh Dimri as the Navab is positively extraordinary. He has got the walk, he has got the talk, and he has got the attitude of a real Navab. How did the cast keep from laughing as he deliriously expounded upon his own greatness? Anu Garg as Juggan Dhobi is uproarious and was my favorite. Poor guy, he loses his companion; his business partner; his donkey no pun intended.
Wandering aimlessly and grief-stricken, he can find no solace. However, later I confusedly found myself mourning along with. The whole experience was enhanced by beautiful music and songs and befitting lighting. The crew did an exceptional and seamless job. It is cozy, and there is not a bad seat in the house. It is a place to feel at home and to feel like a part of the action.
The tone is set even before curtain time when Agastya comes out to welcome the audience, advocate the theater experience, and raffle tickets to other shows.
Ek Tha Gadha
EK THA GADHA