Minneapolis Star Tribune
`Procession' a saner breed of street theater – May 10 1997
By Peter Vaughan; Staff Writer
In the United States, street theater is often a jangling mix of music, raw energy and unvarnished political rhetoric aimed at enlightening and rousing the "people" to action. It can be stirring, persuasive stuff, but is invariably delivered with little attention to artistry and metaphor. That's apparently not the case with street theater in India, if Abhinaya Theater's artful and elegant "Procession" is a representative example.
"Procession," by Badal Sircar, adapted for American audiences by Meena Natarajan and Dipankar Mukherjee, is an extended metaphor, coolly performed by a white-clad, six member chorus that seeks to illuminate the deplorable state of the world without espousing a particular political solution.
Instead, as sharply directed by Mukherjee, it pinpoints politics along with religion, commerce, education and chemical addiction as paths that lead away from peace and fulfillment.
As Khokha, the unisex innocent at the center of "Procession," declares midway through its quest for a path to a new home, "all your processions lead to death." What Khokha sees and questions are a political parade, crowded lines of buses and trains bringing workers to their toil, a religious procession, a march of proud graduates and a trail of empty liquor bottles. Inevitably, Khokha discovers that those processions are following paths that lead to war, ethnic hatred, despair and economic enslavement.
The solution is subtle : a faith in oneself, a willingness to join with others and a belief in the common good are all suggested in the play's final gesture of unity. The heartfelt message of "Procession" is delicately delivered through a series of short scenes, most relying on image rather than bombast to make their points. Some are more effective and accessible than others, but by play's end the message is strongly and clearly made.
The primary dramatic vehicles are movement and music. The chorus often moves as one, serving as both participant in and observer of Khokha's quest. Considering that many of the performers seem to have limited stage experience, Mukherjee does an excellent job of melding them into a credible and controlling influence.
The music is skillfully supplied by Ahmad Alam, who combines Western flute and synthesizer with Indian sitar to create a moody and evocative accompaniment.
"Procession," which is but 80 minutes long, is an intriguing and inviting example of this popular form of Indian theater. It does what good plays should: entertain even as it provokes thought and reaction.
A comment on the recording of the ghazals cd "Yaad Rakhna"
"I was pleased to hear the accomplished singing of Ahmad and I was surprised to note that he has no training in singing ‘Ghazals’ and no knowledge of Urdu language. With this kind of talent, I am sure, he can shine in any area of singing, western or eastern."
Professor Pabitra Sarkar, Vice-Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta, India
Few words on the novel, "Late Night Knocks"
"First let me say that it was a pleasure to read your work. There is a solemn and almost mysterious tone about your writing that intrigued me and pulled me in. You have set out to write an unusual book, and the manuscript seems to be in good condition....Your book focuses on a Muslim family living in America during the post 9/11 hysteria. I don't think anything like this has been done, and so I do think it has that special edge, aka "hook" that the market requires. The cultural insight, alone, makes it very interesting to me....It sounds as though it's a story that needs to be told...."
Editor Ann Creel, Colorado, USA