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June 17, 2009 > Theatre Review: From Dusk until Dawn

Theatre Review: From Dusk until Dawn

Naatak the Bay Area's premier organization dedicated to furthering creative Indian theater brings a new Hindi play with English super-titles, "Surya ki Antim Kiran se Surya ki Pehli Kiran tak" (From Dusk Until Dawn).

The play will be staged between June 20 to July 12 in San Ramon, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

Thirty-odd years ago when India was in the throes of a budding feminist movement, eminent playwright Surendra Verma wrote a play that was to take the theatre world by storm. Amol Palekar made a movie out of it (Anahat, Marathi), Ratna Pathak Shah and Neena Gupta both played the female lead in major Mumbai and Delhi productions and the play has been running for thirty years across not only every metropolis in India but in Britain, Canada and the US.

But what makes the play relevant to the Bay Area today? And what does the director bring to the show that has not been explored or done already?

Tenth century, Malla Kingdom. King Okkaak. Powerful, just and beloved. Also impotent and heirless. A self-righteous Senate, made nervous by the rumors of collusive war-mongering among neighboring Kings, forces Okkaak to invoke the practice of Niyog. Okkaak must sanction and then watch in helpless shame as his reluctant Queen Sheelvati is sent out to find a surrogate husband of her choice for one night among a horde of unknown hopefuls from every walk of life.

In our modern day, post-feminist metro-sexual world, Okkaak becomes the metaphor for all the moments of impotency, sexual or otherwise, that man faces today. It becomes easy to identify with a man who struggles to control events that are fast careening out of control. Beside him in his long, lonely vigil of the night stands Mahattarika, her perfect life providing the perfect foil to the turmoil of the three tortured lives, becoming the metaphor of the ideal that we all aspire to achieve.

Sheelvati is a slow revelation. Tempered in the twin fires of poverty and denial, the steel in her character is revealed as society forces her to re-think its mores and weigh them in juxtaposition with her own needs. A metaphor so powerful it needs no explanation. Behind them all stands the Senate, quietly pulling the strings of other people's lives. Are they every man's destiny?

Director Vinita Sud Belani's interpretation of "Surya ki antim kiran se surya ki pehli kiran tak" is clean, crisp and bold. Into this mix come the pure live tones of classical ragas like Malkaus and Bhairavi, and the sinuous movements of Bhartanatyam and Kathak, highlighting each emotion in the play.

Naatak, started by a small group of then Berkeley and Stanford students, has a 13 year history of bringing quality South Asia related film and theatre to Bay Area audiences. To increase awareness and knowledge of Indian theatre beyond the South Asian audience, Naatak is using a new Super-titling technology to project dialogues in English on a screen above the stage.

From Dusk until Dawn
June 20, 21: Front Row Theatre, San Ramon
June 26, 27, 28: Cubberley Theatre, Palo Alto
July 11, 12: NOHSpace auditorium, San Francisco
(408) 425-2647
VIP $35; Regular $20

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