Behind the Scenes

A Young Artist

The following was written by one of our youngest actresses, Ananya Akella, for a school assignment the week before the premiere of Ek. It has been published here with no alterations.


Cars are parked till the end of the driveway. People are jostling and rushing through the door thinking the might be late.
Dev uncle, the director and lead droll is shouting and giving directions. “You are going to enter at the three drones of the
music.” He explains to someone.

EK rehearsals are so busy especially on Saturdays and this was one of these days.

“Pooja it is time for the lizard play. Hurry up,” I warn her.

I slip my mask on and tie Pooja’s mask. The music starts and the horse starts on it’s round galloping. As soon as the horse keeper unties the sack to feed the horse, I leap out and run towards my lizard sister, Pooja. Swing, turn, twist we go. Dancing with Pooja is so fun and engaging. I back of with all the other kids and twirl in a circle. I can hear the music coming to the end, so I get ready to end acting like a little kid from a small village as if something really exciting happened. Pooja and I high five as we exit the stage.

Getting ready for the next scene I think, “I cannot believe the show is next Saturday. Already!?”

When I act a feeling of joy, happiness and contentment mix in with me and I am able to fulfill my desire successfully. Soon I will be able to show a number of people this talent and act in my very first play to the public.

I LOVE ACTING !!!


The Meaning of Ek

“All men dream – but not equally. Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity…. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”

T. E. Lawrence in “Seven Pillars of Wisdom

I was reminded of  this quote  when Usha mentioned how Ek started with a simple thought “why isn’t there a play on Baba in English language?” That innocent pondering snowballed into a phenomenon in no time. If that thought hadn’t crossed her mind a year ago, I wouldn’t have had this privilege of working along with such a wonderful group of people. Isn’t the Butterfly Effect marvelous?!

Working on Ek has been one of the most wonderful experiences and a big blessing for me.  The intent of the play is to remind us of the philosophy of existence in two simple words – Shraddha and Saburi. Shraddha refers to faith or devotion to the fact that right intentions, thoughts, words and actions will result in right outcome. Saburi says, when Shraddha doesn’t bring the right outcome when we want it, continue having Shraddha anyway. The timing of good things may not happen according our Casio watches.  But it does happen when the universal energy desires it. It teaches us never to deviate from our core value system of treating everyone  the way we want to be treated (like the Holy Bible says).

At each rehearsal, I see large mines of these two precious commodities – Shraddha and Saburi. I feel joy in seeing the three qualities in the cast consistently – big smile, complete devotion to the cause, and tons of patience. Added to that, enthusiasm and the vigor of the kids is truly contagious. I must have done something really good to deserve this Satsangh (Sat = good, sangh = company, loosely speaking).

Satya Dwivedula

 


Eshwar Thotakura and Dwarakamai

Friday, February 3 was an unforgettable milestone for Ek: the unexpected arrival and set up of the Dwarakamai set at the Akella residence.

Local Baba devottee Eshwar Thotakura works with wood, and his creations are stunning. The Austin community already witnessed his magic when he designed and created palanquins for local temples. A humble and shy man, Eshwar prefers being behind the scenes, and his creativity speaks for him.

Dwarakamai is the humble masjid where Baba spent most of his life and is a crucial part of the Sai lore. Eshwar’s recreation of Dwarakamai is sure to be the show stopper for Ek and a highlight of his repertoire. True to life dimensions and eerily lifelike, when assembled it was a slice of Shirdi in Austin.

Last Saturday before rehearsal, the kids of the cast camped out on the front lawn of the Akella residence to greet
incoming cast members. Eager for each new person to experience the magic of seeing the set, they blindfolded every new arrival and led them to the front of the room. As they removed the blindfold, they yelled “Welcome to Dwarkamai!” Every person who saw the magnificent creation was rendered speechless!

That day we had an awe inspiring rehearsal in the presence of the greatest symbol of Shirdi Baba.

For many many months my silent hope and prayer to Baba had been that this house would become a temple to him. I avoided buying furniture or would not encourage the discussion every time it came up as the silent hope was that this hall would be Baba’s temple.

How did I know that he had heard that wish and in answer literally put Dwarkamai itself here? I can say no more.

Ek has been blessed to be produced by such great local talent!

Usha Akella


Experiences of an Actress

At first when I joined Ek, I only did it because of my belief in Sai Baba. Since I am a long-term volunteer at the temples, I thought this would be another way of volunteering. But now, I enjoy it and listen to the audio and am glad to be part of Ek.  I have attended all the rehearsals so far and am keen on improving my acting.

Some of the lines I laugh at in my car while driving.

Lakshmi’s dialogue, “Is he going to live with us?  He sparkles like a new coin.”

Rao’s dialogue, “For whom I have to run the School” and” the villagers are pack of fools.”

The Audio is so good. For the Lavani dance, I felt like dancing. I look at Vinitha Madam’s and Dev Uncle’s dedication and think one should learn from them.  Usha is also very patient and encouraging.  Thanks! The cast is wonderful and doing their best.

The audio rings in my ears at nights. Don’t know how long it takes for it to fade away from my memory.

Syamala Mallela

The Composer’s Story

As a woman, life always revolves around one’s immediate family and work. Again as a woman, I know I can connect any time I want, with other women friends of mine, easily, like we never left off, and without any need for maintaining any constant communication open, even for a decade sometimes!

Usha, was my closest friend in college, we laughed together, had lunch together and attended classes together. We never caught a film, went to each other’s houses or hung out together in today’s sense. Yet when she and I spoke to each other after a 6-year gap last December, we just took off sharing everything we had been through, no distance, no discomfort, no strangeness came between us.

And she was telling me about this play she was writing on Shirdi Sai Baba. I was deeply moved, because I had a personal wonderful experience with my health when Baba walked into my life. We got on to seriously thinking about my working on the project, when, for reasons beyond our control, it was not to be.

I let it go and in June again, Usha called me, saying, somehow this was meant to be me working on the music. Baba had actually sent the project back to me.

“Ek” is a very challenging, huge musical canvas. It called for a lot of varied music to come together. Usha was writing in English, but there were Hindi bhajans involved. She wanted some of it to be tinged with Broadway flavor but, bhakti, and Indianness were absolute musts.

I have trained for 20 odd years in Karnatik classical music. I have grown up listening to Broadway musical soundtracks and Western pop music since a baby. And there I was- for the first time, I was going to expand all my experience and learning and make it work for “Ek”. I have been working for films, TV films and corporate videos, as a singer/songwriter and working with some English theatre as well. As a music director in India, one is influenced by so many different musical expressions, Indian theatrical, film, folk, classical, Western classical, pop and folk and Broadway. I have been open and welcomed all of these as a musician. With “Ek” it was like all these many myriad colours would form a perfect rainbow of harmony and sparkle! Every time the rest of the main crew heard my rough tracks and came back with gooseflesh or was moved to tears, or jumped in delight, I grew as a musician in experience and humility.

Usha’s script is masterful She has creatively woven an impressionistic, time-free picture of the Saisatcharitra. The words have just written themselves so fast, that Usha has had a hard time trying to keep up with the flow of her art!! In her mind, first was born this amazing epic work, that has brought us together for Baba!

If it were only songs, I’d have not even thought of it as challenging, but the whole dialogue track needed to be recorded, with enough time for actors and dancers to go through their paces and dance movements. While I sit in India and work at this, the play is to be staged in Austin. Which theatre hall? How much time do I give in between dialogue lines, where shall the music come and go. I was very worried, and not able to communicate how immensely difficult this task was since I was not on the picture as it were.

Until Dev uncle came on to the project and worked out an extremely detailed, well thought out screenplay for “Ek”, only God gave me strength to quietly underplay how unmanageable the work was and showed me a way to undertake it, within the finance, time and resources available to me.

I can’t wait for the show to take place and the audience’s reaction to “Ek” which has seen the core team of four come together and work as “Ek” in such touching harmony, grace and joy. These will most surely communicate themselves to the audience and they will all be touched by the grace of Baba!

I wish all success to those who are behind the scenes and on the scenes of “Ek”!!!

Suchitra Lata


Musings from the Director

Ek

An artist is often associated with a quest for dreams.
His goal is to make dreams a virtual reality via the form of a medium.

REALITY is a bitter pill to swallow:
The Supreme power’s test for an artist on a mundane level of virtual existence.

EK is a poet’s work of a REALITY, a supreme power had control over me,
It has enlightened every minute of my existence to making REALITY into REALITY

When Saraswathi, Goddess of Gnana (knowledge and wisdom) presented me
with REALITY, as a dream, tremendous introspection occurred, and is continuing.

As an artist, my goals suddenly changed from dreams to virtual reality
as a myth, to REALITY in the form of REALITY in the form of REALITY.

I had to create a Theatrical Spectacle from REALITY to virtual reality.

Come and enjoy an artist’s endeavor to show REALITY which is EK

SEE SHIRDI IN USA……..EK…..EK…..EK….ONENESS IN HUMANITY.

OM SAI NAMO NAMAHA…..SRI SAI NAMO NAMAHA

Devaguptapu Babu