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A Parody of a Party for Priyanka Brings Funds for the Less Fortunate

The cast and crew of the play “Mastani O Mastani” which was staged at the Old Stafford Civic Center this past Sunday, November 5 in support of the Indian charity Udavum Karangal.

The cast and crew of the play “Mastani O Mastani” which was staged at the Old Stafford Civic Center this past Sunday, November 5 in support of the Indian charity Udavum Karangal.

By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD: What immediately caught your eye was the set on stage; a large and wide raised terrace with a stout white balustrade, a tall, shiny green schefflera plant on one side and seven steps with wrought-iron railing leading up to it. Behind it, on long curtains hung empty gold gilded frames, on the white face was a curving graphic, and in front, a cream colored couch gave semblance to a parlor in a grand house. To the left, two tall wooden panels carved with flowing Indian motifs with more scheffleras separated the entrances to what were portions of the homes of three extended families. It was an opulent haveli, set in New York and designed by Nalini and Dhani Kannan of Decor One.

Into this haveli came and went the eight characters of the play “Mastani O Mastani” produced and directed by Houston’s own imaginatively creative mind with a flair for theatrics, Rajan Radhakrishnan. Never mind that his day-job is to make people and events happy at Madras Pavilion restaurant and Dawat Catering, Rajan, as he is universally known, is truly restless and irrepressible when given a mic and a stage, especially in song or a chance to direct. The English-language play was which was staged at the Old Stafford Civic Center this past Sunday, November 5 was in support of the Indian charity Udavum Karangal.

Mohini Agarwal, who played the role of Priyanka Chopra, danced towards the end of the play

Mohini Agarwal, who played the role of Priyanka Chopra, danced towards the end of the play

Rajan adapted this play from the popular Tamil movie “Bama Vijayam (Bama’s Visit)” by well-known director K. Balachander who also made the hit 1981 Hindi romantic film “Ek duuje ke liye (Made for each other)”. In the adaptation, three families jointly living in the same house plan a lavish party to receive the popular Indian actress Priyanka Chopra who has moved in next door to them. The rest of the play is a farce of events that unfold as each family member reveals their fanciful plan for making the visit truly memorable. Into this mix enters a wily Sardar caterer who promises a luscious meal and absconds with a stash of money.

The actors in the play are well-known locals who have busy personal and professional lives but are thespians with a love to perform: Dr. Subodh Bhuchar, Raghu Chakravarthy, Rathna Kumar, Alpa Shah, Mahesh Shah, Govindan Somaskanthan, Dr. Sridhar Srinivasan, M.M. Sriram and Lalita Sundaresan (who also wrote the story and dialogues). To that add the talents of Padmini Ranganathan as the Creative Head, choreography by Mohini Agarwal (who played Priyanka) and background music by Sandeep Kumrouth and Maha Krishnan of Shree Kruthi School of Music. And the opening speech was given by Samyuktha Hari who has done fundraising work for UK in The Woodlands, raising $25,000 over the past 2 years.

Of course, Rajan directed this play though he could not devote all his time due to his business obligations. “Many of the actors were traveling, so I would go over each one’s part individually,” smiled Rajan a few days after the show. “I gave my vision of the scenes and how they should act it. After that Alpa Shah stepped in as a co-director to rehearse the group’s efforts together.”

Rathna Kumar and Lalita Sundaresan played quarreling neighbors

Rathna Kumar and Lalita Sundaresan played quarreling neighbors

The final show brimmed with witticisms though it was short on outright laughs, save for a couple of animated exchanges between the characters as between the Sardar and Vaishali (played by Lalita) and Darshani (played by Alpa) about coconut oil smell and his lack of brains and when Vaishali ruminated that she “had run out of nouns and adjectives” to call the Sardar and turned to the audience for more.

There was certainly a lot of adlibbing and even references to local establishments as when the Sardar (played with a thick Punjabi accent by Bhuchar) suggested he would “go down to Madras Pavilion in Sugar Land” for some recipes. And at one point, Rajan, sitting behind the sound booth (dressed in a bright red sherwani with red and yellow stripped sleeves), gave on-air responses to an actor’s queries. Further on, Rathna’s character (in a thick Telegu accent) runs out to lament that her “Malabar fish curry will not be ready as my mixee is not working!”

From left, Alpa Shah (co-director); Director Rajan Radhakrishnan, Subodh Bhuchar as the Sardar and Padmini Ranganathan, President of Udavum Karangal USA.

From left, Alpa Shah (co-director); Director Rajan Radhakrishnan, Subodh Bhuchar as the Sardar and Padmini Ranganathan, President of Udavum Karangal USA.

Just before the play ends, Priyanka runs through the audience dressed in a red dancer’s outfit, head covered with a red dupatta and onto the stage as the others feign admiration and awe. She breaks into a dance and in the final scene, the Sardar runs back out and shouts “Oh, Madam PC!”

This show marks the 15th year that Madras Pavilion and specifically Rajan had produced a show in support of the Udavum Karangal of USA (Padmini Ranganathan of Houston is the President), which in turn sends the proceeds to the Udavum Karangal (Helping Hands), a charity based in Chennai, India. Started 35 years ago by S. Vidyaakar, UK takes care of orphans, the elderly and other needy people through one of their many centers and programs. This show was able to collect over $70,000 for the charity.

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