The 8th Natya Darpan concludes with a full house


Executive team of Natya Darpan Ashish Nachane, Anjali Agashe, Nutan Dabholkar Kalamdani & Ashok Chaudhary.

Our Bureau

Edison, NJ

The 8th Annual Natya Darpan 2023 concluded, beating its own record by having a sold-out show over a week in advance.  Indian Heritage and Cultural Association of New Jersey (IHCA-NJ), that hosts the annual short play festival, registered another successful event this year. With an exciting array of 6 short plays, Natya Darpan was held on Sunday August 20th at the Middlesex County College in Edison.

Mr. Ashok Chaudhary – Founder & President, IHCA-NJ

The event began with Founder of IHCA-NJ Dr. Ashok Chaudhary welcoming the guests and the dignitaries present. He also took a moment to thank his executive team and all the sponsors. The opening of the festival commenced with a lamp lighting ceremony which was performed in the presence of the dignitaries. Among those present were Chief Guest Archana Joglekar, celebrated actress, Director, and Kathak Dancer; Mr Hemant Marathe, Mayor of West Windsor; Edison Councilman Ajay Patil; Mr. Nilesh Dasondi, a renowned businessman, community leader and one of the sponsors; Manda Gorsegner, Grants Administration Manager; Sarah Ferreira, Program Content Manager; Kayson Woolford, Engagement Specialist; Amy Garcia-Phillips, Arts Program Manager; Ayanna Slacum, Arts Program Assistant; Lindsay Erben, Director of the Arts Institute; Jared Cardenas, Division Head of Education, Outreach, and Administration; Tracey O’Reggio Clark, Division Head of Arts and Community Development; Isha Vyas, Division Head of Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Ashok Chaudhary, Nilesh Dasondi, Archana Joglekar, Ajay Patil, Mayor of West Windsor Mr. Hemant Marathe

Despite his busy schedule, Honorable Consul General of India in New York, Mr. Randhir Jaiswal also graced the festival with his presence in the afternoon. He was extremely delighted and impressed to witness one of the 6 plays during his short visit. He addressed the audience and reassured the team of the continuous support from the Consulate for the activities by IHCA-NJ. He added that such cultural activities should be brought to the forefront to create awareness and encourage local artists. He also added that the Consulate is proud to be a partner with IHCA-NJ and Natya Darpan.

Consul General of India in New York, Hon. Randhir Jaiswal receives a momento

This year Natya Darpan showcased 6 mesmerizing plays with varied subjects by local actors and diverse groups from various cities in the USA.

The Empty Chair (English) talked about a counseling center for teenagers recovering from substance abuse. This drama showed how the death of one of their own affects each of them. It had a very strong and emotional anti-drug message. The treatment of the play was to highlight how a group of individuals not related to each other are united by the death of their friend. Written by Tim Kelly, the play was directed by Dr. Aniruddha Railkar.

Law for the Entitled (English), an adaptation from the Kannada play Sampaddharma by Sriranga was an epic one-act play that looked at survival, wealth, privilege, caste, greed and human suffering during a natural calamity. The play was set in a mythological time between Treta and Dwaapara Yug, when an extended period of famine foisted upon humanity by the Gods had caused widespread death and destruction in the world. The play was written and directed by Anand Rao.

Ubhe Aadve (Marathi) spoke about the lockdown, two unemployed friends and one crooked scheme. While the world had locked itself down in the raging pandemic, Ubhe and Adve were at strange crossroads and the route they chose took everyone on a wild ride. This play was written and directed by Swanand and Amruta.

Na Nahaye Bahadur (Hindi), a satire on long winding court procedures and the tardiness of the Indian judicial system was based around a character called Bahadur Chandel. The play written by Santosh Tiwari and directed by Ameeya Mehta is full of entertainment, humor, and satire.

Pratibimb (Marathi) was about a man who wakes up one day to find his reflection amiss. In Pratibimb, writer Mahesh Elkunchwar raised issues of identity formation and identity crisis in intricate ways. The play was directed by Anu Kanetkar-Mahabal.

Mast Ekdam Majet (Marathi) drew upon humor to highlight the fact that relationships cannot be looked upon with a consumer-driven mindset but rather they should be nurtured with faith and understanding. Written by Pramod Kale, the play was directed by Sandeep Karajkar.

The team from Middlesex County Arts Council

As always, this year the plays with rich and thought-provoking content that left the audiences spellbound and wanting for more. It’s not a surprise that there were almost 100 people on the waiting list to attend this sold-out festival and had to be turned down. Mr Chaudhary seemed very happy and satisfied with the response from the attendees.

When we spoke to Mr Chaudhary, he said, “It is truly the mark of our incredibly cultured and loyal audience that we were able to continuously grow our program. This program is only made possible because of an audience as intelligent, receptive, and artistic as the actors performing on Natya Darpan stage year after year. I am extremely thankful to my excellent committee, team members, passionate actors, cast and crew, sponsors, supporters, media, and the very loyal audiences who have supported me time and again. I couldn’t have done without anyone”.

Dr. Ashok Chaudhary, a research scientist by profession, has been involved in many nonprofit organizations for the last 30 years and lead many nonprofit organizations. In 2013, he started a nonprofit organization Indian Heritage & Cultural Association-NJ (IHCA-NJ) to promote US-based local talent in performing arts and to bring the communities together to discuss and address various social issues such as feminism, mental health, human trafficking, diversity, international war, etc. that affect the South Asian community and has an impact on all other communities, too.

Natya Darpan has been growing, expanding, and progressing. Their dedicated team of executive directors, advisors, extremely knowledgeable selection committee, and volunteers make this herculean task seem very easy. The festival has been able to sustain due to grants and guidance every year, from the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners. The Consul General of India in New York also contributes to the festival and has been co-hosting the festival since the last 6 years.

Photo Credit: Shikhar Raj Sengupta

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