Set in Silicon Valley, A Nice Indian Boy, is a comedy about love and marriage. The nice Indian boy in question is Naveen Gavaskar, the soft-spoken only son of Indian immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area who is praying at the Shiva-Vishnu temple in Livermore when we first meet him. Then there is the boyfriend, Keshav Kurundkar, who has traveled within India more than Naveen, knows all kinds of lore surrounding Lord Ganesha and also demonstrates old-fashioned rituals of respect to Naveen’s parents when introduced to them. There’s just one problem: Keshav is white.
Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts, Sukanya Chakrabarti, the play explores themes of inter-racial and queer relationships, family dynamics, and personal identity.
“We are hoping that we can make this play accessible and enjoyable for almost anyone who enjoys the magic of live theatre. Even though the central plot of the play revolves around the queer couple in the story, it is such a deep exploration of identity, love, family, and queerness. What I really appreciate about this play is that it deals with deeper subjects while maintaining a sense of humor and levity,” says Chakrabarti.
In true Bollywood fashion, the play incorporates musical interludes into their action. The road through which Madhuri Shekar’s Indian Boy, Naveen, and Keshav navigate true love is peppered with allusions to Dilwale Dulhnaiya Le Jayenge (DDLJ).
It is rare to see contemporary portraits of the diaspora’s Indian life reflected on stage, so it’s particularly refreshing to see A Nice Indian Boy which offers a tender but humorous look at a thoroughly modern romance attempting to define itself through a traditional lens.
“Theatre, for me, is another way to change the world through stories. We all are, at the end of the day, bearers of stories, and to be able to represent these beautiful, complex, troubling, and enlightening stories on stage with our bodies is what inspires me to do theatre. While theatre has tools to reflect the worlds we inhabit, it also offers a space to dream up endless possibilities that we want for ourselves and our future,” explains director Chakrabarti.
As The San Francisco State School of Theatre and Dance opens back to in-person performances, Chakrabarti explains, “The most challenging part of doing this particular script in our current times is navigating the logistics of following COVID protocols, ensuring that everyone in the cast is safe and healthy, and also being able to work with moments of proximity and intimacy that the script truly demands. We have been rehearsing with masks on throughout, and it has been a new kind of adjustment to do rehearsals without really being able to see each other’s faces. But the best part of our team is that we have been able to work through the hurdles, and adapted to these different rules and regulations that our current times necessitate.”
“We are producing this play not at a conventional proscenium theatre, but at a smaller, black box intimate space that can accommodate only thirty-five spectators at a time. I have always been a fan of intimate theater spaces, and I do love working with space as an important element in the show. What I am truly hoping to accomplish is a participatory relationship with the audience, so that they feel they are a part of it, rather than looking at it from a distance. We are, therefore, focusing more on the experiential aspects of the play.”
This comedy about love and marriage today—gay or straight, arranged or not—will bring a smile to your face as you tap dance with the smitten youths as they sing songs and mimic famous scenes from the iconic DDLJ.
Dr. Chakrabarti’s parting advice to her theater students: “I would advise all new graduates and actors to never let go of that first moment in time that sparked their interest and passion in theater, no matter where they are in their stage of career, and to never forget why they chose to pursue acting. I believe in the beauty and the power of the shoshin, or the ‘beginner’s mind,’ which according to Zen Buddhism, is a rich and potent state of mind that has extreme potential to grow and shine, which is what I would advise all new graduates and actors to nurture and cultivate.”
Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be required to attend. Masks are required in all indoor spaces at San Francisco State University, including in the theatre. Performers will be unmasked. This information may be updated by the organizers closer to the event.
March 11-March 18: The Lab, Creative Arts Building, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway
All shows are at 6:00 p.m.
Advance Ticket link: sfsu.simpletix.com
School of Theatre and Dance: theatredance.sfsu.edu
Mona Shah does social media strategy and content curation for C-suite executives. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations.