Community News Bites: Banaprastha and Urhalpool

ECTA’s latest production “Banaprastha” premiered at the Edison Valley Playhouse on May 16th in front of a full house. The play was very well received by the audience as you can see in the accompanying video.  The second show was held on May 17th. Besides the video comments, here are some of the comments sent over the email.

We thoroughly enjoyed Banaprasta. This is a very timely production. I wish this drama can be viewed by millions Indians in India in view of the fact that India is crazy about Bollywood. Once again congratulations for presenting a great drama.” – Aurobindo Mukherjee

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Banaprastha Rehearsals in Final Phase

Parijat (Subhodev) and Pallab (Shamyo) in BanaprasthaAfter a long preparation phase, the end is now in sight. In two weeks time, ECTA will be launching their latest production, “Banaprastha” or “The Retirement”. ECTA’s play have always generated interest amongst the theater lover audience of this area and “Banaprastha” is no exception. People are eagerly waiting for the new play with lot of expectation. We hope this play will live up to that.

“Banaprastha” will feature some of the regular performers of ECTA along with few new faces. Shamyo Goswami, a newcomer to New Jersey will be appearing for the first time on NJ stage. Although Shamyo’s primary interest is in film direction (he has directed and produced a Banga Tele-serial featuring some of the top actors of Bengali screen), he is also an excellent actor. Subhodev Das, after a long hiatus, will be performing the role of the protagonist character – Dr. Parijat Sen.  Another newcomer is Pradeep Ramdas. Although not a native Bengali speaker, his love for Bengali theater is no less than any Bengali. In India, Pradeep was involved with the street theater movement. Pradeep plays the role of Ashok Diwan, a young business man of Kolkata.  Kaninika Dutta’s debut in New Jersey theater was with Pratham Alo, where she acted in the key role of Bhumisuta. Kaninika, after a long break, returns to the stage as Sudeshna. Gargi Mukherjee, the well known actress (you cannot miss her in Mira Nair’s film – The Namesake) also returns to an ECTA production after a long time. She performed in ECTA’s first production “Phera” (The Return) in 2004 as a guest artist. In Banaprastha, she performs in the role of Suranjana – a character that will touch the hearts of many. Kaushik Dutta, who won the hearts of many with his role of Nando in “Ron”, will also feature in an important character role.

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Banaprastha and AIDS – The Genesis

HIV AIDS Red RibbonI think it was in 2004 when I met Pranay Dutta, an AIDS activist from Calcutta who was on a world tour attending several AIDS conferences in Europe, Asia and America. Pranay Dutta was then (and I understand he still is) the secretary of Sonata Foundation, an NGO in Calcutta who was trying to spread AIDS awareness in West Bengal and India through music, documentaries and performing arts. His theory was that HIV/AIDS awareness through print media was bound to be a failure in India where the majority of the affected people are illiterate. He thought that if this message can be spread out using music and performing arts then it could have the greatest impact. During my discussions with Pranay, he told me numerous incidents of how HIV and AIDS are affecting the poor Indian population. But what struck me most was the fact that how this disease was surreptitiously spreading amongst the educated, urban middle class. He told me several incidents of well-to-do middle class families affected with HIV and their attempts to hush it up, just like the way people used to do in the early half of the twentieth century when people got infected with TB or Leprosy or something similar. The fear of social back lash was more than the disease itself. Anybody infected with HIV is immediately branded as an immoral social outcast – some one who does not have the right to exist amongst the social elite. Most middle class family consider themselves immune to HIV and think that this is only a poor man’s disease. As Pranay says in one of his interviews with Voice of America, people in our society doesn’t care about HIV until someone in their family is infected. It is difficult to make someone aware when he or she doesn’t want to be.

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Terror in Mumbai

It is Thanksgiving eve and this dastardly scene unfolds in front of me on the Indian News networks – Mumbai under attack. Soon CNN picked it up and all news networks focused on the financial capital of India – Mumbai. It was dramatic, to say the least, to witness the Taj, Oberoi and Trident hotels on fire, gun shots and explosions, and the closeups of blood stained people and property. As I write this, the siege is still on with several hostages under the clutches of the terrorists and more than 100 people killed.

I don’t know who is doing this (although some sources are reporting that Deccan Mujaheddin has claimed responsibility) and for what purpose, but it is clear that it is a very well planned and well coordinated effort to not only shake up India, but also the entire world. India is rapidly gaining recognition as a major economic power, it’s opinions carry lot of weight in the global economy. All major economies in the world are eager to do business with India and Mumbai is their main port of call. Possibly the terrorists hope to scare off the world by trying to demonstrate Mumbai (and India) as an unsafe place to do business with. But they are grossly mistaken. They fail to understand that the world is not only watching their cowardly attacks but also the heroic efforts by the police and the army, the selfless efforts of the hotel employees who risked their lives to save their guests. The chief of anti terrorist squad, Hemant Karkare and the additional commissioner of police, Ashok Kamte laid down their lives along with several other of their compatriots to save the lives of the people of Mumbai. The entire world will be with India and thwart the efforts of the terrorists to isolate India.

Let’s all condemn these attacks and show our solidarity behind the people of Mumbai. Our deepest condolences goes to the families of the victims of this incident. We hope that the people of Mumbai and India will stay calm and not do anything rash and violent to hurt their fellow citizens ’cause that will only serve the cause of the terrorists.

Music Of India

A Musical Odyssey : Journey through history and Genres
A unique mehfil celebrating the diversity of raagdari and folk music from India’s different regions. Our journey will take us across India’s landscape, stopping at points of interest from the Himalayan Highlands to the backwaters of Kerala, from the havelis of Rajasthan to the flowing waters of Bengal, as distinguished artists perform the music of their heritage.

Ghazals, Bhajans, Taranas, Tillanas, Folk, Thumris, Dhrupad, Khayal, Kirtans, and more –

Dr. Mohan Deshpande
Mitali Banerjee-Bhawmik
Astha Shukla-Shrivastav
Kamala Ramamurthy
Bhupendra Gadhavi
Trupti Parikh
Uma Ramakrishnan
Kedar Naphade
Amod Dandawate

November 9, 2008, 4:00pm (sharp)

Hills Highlands Recreation Center/Clubhouse
75 Hansom Road, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

Tel: (201) 447-6936, (908) 429-1120, (973) 539-5534
Donations of $15/adult & $7/below 18 years of age will be collected at the door. Limited seating, RSVP.
Limited parking at Venue. Street parking is allowed. Please look for the appropriate road signs.

Chandrayaan-1 Lifts Off

Last night (Tuesday Oct 21, 9.52pm US Eastern time) I watched with awe when the giant PSLV rocket blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space center in Shriharikota, India, carrying with it India’s pride – the Chadrayaan-1 unmanned lunar mission. Largely ignored by the US media, the Chandrayaan-1 mission may not be of much interest to the US population but it is a giant step for India to prove to the world that India can do whatever it puts its mind to. With the success of this mission, India will join the select group of countries who have made lunar missions. Many are asking for the economic justification of such an expensive adventure. When the majority of Indians are lacking the basic necessities of life, scientific extravaganza like a “Lunar mission” is seen as nothing but sheer luxury. The nuclear exercise at least had some tangible benefits in the defense and energy sector. What benefits are we expecting by sending a box full of instruments to the moon? Are we sending a space craft to the moon only because “it is there”? Or is it because we want to stake a claim on a new frontier by planting the tri-color just as we did in Antartica? Continue reading

Twitter – The Latest Craze in Micro-blogging

In today’s world of minuscule attention span, writing and reading long blog articles are sure to lose popularity. After all the “text messaging” generation does not want to spend hours reading long drawn blog essays. Hence “micro-blogging” is the rave of the day and undoubtedly, the king of micro blogging is “Twitter”. The world blog comes from “Web Logs”, which implies that blogs are essentially online logs of the blogger ramblings, sort of like a diary or online journal. Twitter does just that, it allows users to write snippets (140 characters or less) of any message that you want to share with your friends of the world, and they get logged onto your home page. But the story does not end here. If you have a bunch of friends who are interested in you, who want to know what you are up to, who would like to “follow you”, they can link up with your “Tweets” and receive an update whenever you post something through tweeter. Check out my tweeter page to figure out what I am talking about. For example, if you’d like to follow me, just click the link “follow”. You will of course have to sign up with Twitter before you can follow somebody. People who are familiar with Orkut scrapping or Facebook wall writing or status update should get the idea, except on Twitter you are doing a one-to-many messaging, rather than one-on-one with global access.
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Starting with Heritage Day Celebrations August 16 @ 10:00am



Followed by Ananda Mela Activities @12:00pm–
GAMES FOR Adults, Young Adults, Children & Family;


In the evening 6:30pm ONWARDS Rakhi & Jhulan Yatra Samapan
AND Community Dinner

Date: AUGUST 16th, 2008
Time: Starts at 10.00 AM
269 Cedar Grove Lane, Somerset, NJ 08873
Phone: 732 873 9821

Contact: Krishna Dutta Roy – 732-390-8069 / Sanjit Dutta – 732 821 5996

Ananda Mandir requests your presence to make this a Grand Success

California Natyamela 2008 and Taconic Parkway

Recently we (ECTA) had the opportunity to stage our new play “Taconic Parkway” at the California Natyamela 2008 held at the Amador Theater in Pleasanton, CA. Last year when I was visiting California to see the staging of my play “Ron” by the local group ENAD, I met Pradosh Sarkar who invited me to participate at the 2008 Natyamela, their fourth year of the festival. Pradosh Sarkar, a playwright and director himself, is a key member of Sanskriti, the group that organizes the Natyamela. In the previous years they limited their invitation only to the local groups, but Pradosh told me that he wants to make an exception in 2008 by inviting us from New Jersey. And I had no option but to accept the offer when he also assured me that they would take care of the expenses. However, Pradosh reminded me that they have a time limitation and each play must be limited to an hour, give or take ten minutes. This was a challenge for me since the plays we had in our repertoire all exceeded this limit. But I thought that this may be a perfect opportunity to work on a new play that was brewing in my mind for some time. After I came back, I started to work on the script and soon developed a one act play named “Taconic Parkway” which perfectly fits the bill for the California Natyamela 2008. It had three characters, and was limited to an hour and ten minutes. Continue reading

Advantage Bengal: A Video on the IT Industry Opportunities in West Bengal

Take a peek at this exciting promotional video “Advantage Bengal” produced by the Department of Information Technology, Govt. of West Bengal and Webel. Listen what the IT business leaders are saying about the IT opportunities in West Bengal as well as from the Chief-Minister Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya and IT Minister Dr. Debesh Das. Share this video with others who may be interested by using the “Share This” button on your right.