Sai Baba’s Message Reaches Out with Conviction in Bud Patel’s Hindi Play

The cast, crew, sponsors and wellwishers gathered for a group photo at the end of the unique Sai-Leela theatrical performance.

STAFFORD: It is latent talent and a pent-up desire to express yourself creatively that brings community theatre alive for others to marvel at. That fascination with the arts has been building up among the desi community as it has grown larger and more diverse in its makeup over the past two decades, and in particular the past eight years as more people are drawn to take part in the limelight, and not just in dance productions.

Bhadresh Patel – better known as Bud – is one of those people who have migrated from their profession to the avocation that first called them as a young person. A microbiologist who worked in a medical lab, Bud became an hotelier, even building some hotels in Houston. But the acting bug that he got when he was just 7 years-old in Bombay and then developed in Marathi dramas, led him on to writing scripts, film making and teaching aspiring actors. He became a producer and the lead in “A Curry on an American Plate”.

But Bud yearned to mix theatre with his devotion to Shridi Sai Baba, and for the past few months, he pulled together a script, a cast of actors and a producer (“My wife,” he smiled) to direct a Broadway style drama based on the saint’s life in the play “Sai Leela” with a set designer and costumes and accessories imported from India.

“Shridi Sai-Baba message is very simple,” explained Bud. “Shraddha-saburi (faith-patience) and complete devotion to God and Guru.” The production was lavish and each actor had to deliver their own lines in Hindi. The dialogues and background music was not pre-recorded. “Sai-Baba’s divine blessings were with us,” Bud added.

Sai Leela premiered at the Old Stafford Civic Center on Friday, June 7 to a sold out audience of 900.. As the curtains were raised, the audience knew that something magical, momentous and on a grand-scale was about to start.

The play had all the dramatic elements found in large productions – soulful music, thunderous dialogues, melodious songs, extravagant sets, beautiful costumes, mesmerizing dance sequences, and a powerful performance of Sai Baba on stage. Still the show had a contemporary feel to it and the credit goes to director Bud Patel, scriptwriter Dr. Arun Banker, and lead actor Vibhas Dhurandhar for painstakingly adding theatrical details to adapt it to the stage. Bud Patel not only took up the daunting challenge of dramatizing a classic spiritual story on stage but did so magnificently well, managing the cast and crew of over 50 people.

The play transported you back to the British Era in the small village of Shirdi in Maharashtra. There were lively performances of lead actor Vibhas Dhurandhar as Sai-Baba, and others playing Baizama (Sonal Tuljapurkar), Saurvanbai/Meera (Kiran Gupta), Dhandu (Vinay Goel), Pandu (Krishna Mishra), Bal Yogi/Nacha (Ratnakar), Chandbhai/Shastriji (Akshay Shah), Rukhmani (Mukta Vijaywargiya), Keshav (Ishaan Vijawargiya), Lord Curzon (James Burtan), Queen (Madhu Prakash), and Bud Patel himself as Kulkarni Sarkar. The special dance sequence (Dipavali song) was choreographed by Khusboo Jaiswal and the Lavani and Qawwali was choreographed by Kiran Gupta.

Houstonians will cherish the show for long time as Bud Patel has raised the bar by producing a show on such a grand scale. He was also able to accomplish the overwhelming task of finding local talent, who could act and dance and offering them an opportunity to shine on stage. The devotion (Sai-Bhakti) and hard work put in by each artist was reflected on their performance.
“I can’t help but appreciate how much of an amazing milestone this is and how lucky I was to have this amazing team,” said Bud after the show. “I sincerely bow to Sai-Baba who has blessed me with this glorious opportunity of translating his work into stage play. I am ever indebted to his mercy towards us and our cast and crew.”

The producers especially thanked the show’s sponsors and volunteers – Rakesh Parikh (voice, music & sound recording) for spending countless hours on mixing and arranging the sound track and voice recording; Anilkumar Sihray (for stage lighting direction); Fateh Ali Chatur (for special advice and stage management) and Sangita Tailor Jolie of Jolie Salon & Makeup.

The grand sponsors were Sanatan Shiv Shakti Mandir, Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir, Umang Mehta (Deep Foods), Sudhir Mathuria (Health Medicare 360), Baccha Tiwari (New York Life), Vinod Shah (ABC Travel), Bharat Kalyanji (BK Traders), and Ajit Patel and Nisha Mirani (Manoranjan Inc).