Naatak promises to enthrall, again
In July, I stepped into the famed Naatak House in Santa Clara, with eager anticipation to audition for their highly awaited theatrical musical production, Bombay Talkies. But work obligations forced me to withdraw from the play reluctantly. To make up for it, I am thrilled to offer an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes of this production, which promises to be an electrifying blend of music, dance, and storytelling; a journey through Hindi film history from 1935 to 1975.
Written and directed by Naatak co-founder Sujit Saraf, with dance direction, choreography, and production by Soumya Agastya, Bombay Talkies is poised to be a groundbreaking theatrical experience in the Bay Area.
Rehearsals have none of the glitz and glamor we will finally see on stage. It takes loads of hard work and sweat, and some clever time management. Everyone juggles their acting dreams with real-world hustle at work and at home. Yet, no learning curve is too steep here, as fresh faces blend in with theater veterans in a collaborative atmosphere.
I followed three actors – Neeraj Chawla, Pamy Arora, and Vinay Patil – as they rehearsed for one of Naatak’s biggest productions.
Pamy Arora as Phani Majumdar and Ghulam Haider
At 75, Pamy Arora, a financial economic advisor by profession, is making his first foray into the world of theater. He steps into the shoes of director Phani Majumdar and composer Ghulam Haider, two legendary figures who left a lasting impression on Hindi films.
Pamy is a Sikh who speaks fluent Bengali and German and is learning Farsi. His fluency in Bengali came in handy while portraying the pioneering film director, Phani Majumdar. To prepare for his debut performance, Pamy recorded his lines and rehearsed his cues even while driving.
Vinay Patil as Ramesh Sippy
Vinay Patil, 42, works in supply chain management at Meta. He has been a fan of Naatak’s presentations for a while but was especially inspired by the production of Mahabharat a few years ago. So he decided to take a plunge this year and auditioned for Bombay Talkies; he landed the role of none other than Sholay director, Ramesh Sippy! As he delved into the script, Vinay said he was swept away by the incredible story told through the eyes of a clapper boy. He said director Sujit Saraf’s deep research into the world of Hindi films at the time truly impressed him. To nail his debut role, Vinay studied Sippy’s talking style and dived deep into the making of Sholay.
Neeraj Chawla as Himanshu Rai & K. Asif
A theater enthusiast and technologist by day, Neeraj Chawla, 53, took a three-decade post-college hiatus from the stage. Bombay Talkies is his third major role since his break and his second Naatak production. Neeraj plays the roles of Himanshu Rai, the visionary founder of Bombay Talkies, and K. Asif, the mastermind director behind the legendary Mughal-e-Azam. He said his roles seamlessly align with his innate passion for mimicry; he can imitate 40 different actors!
Behind the scenes, a symphony of excitement, laughter, and a touch of nervousness prevails, as the curtain rises on Bombay Talkies. Take your seats, abhi toh picture shuru hui hai!
Dates: September 2 – Oct 1, 2023
Location: Cubberley Theater, Palo Alto