By Anya Shukla
I’m Indian-American. But until recently, I had a preconception of Bollywood movies: they were filled with over-the-top acting, wacky plots, and overt green screen usage. Anathema to a Hollywood born-and-bred gal like me. Sriram Raghavan’s "Andhadhun" stands in stark contrast to my sugar-coated image of Indian cinema.
"Andhadhun" evokes an unnerving feeling of suspense, perfectly encapsulated in one slow, eerie dolly shot of a maroon, poster-lined hallway. That sense of faint foreboding, coupled with the movie’s dramatic narrative, constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. The plot is dense—a blind piano player witnesses two murders, then tries to catch the killers and also land the girl of his dreams and also move to London. But this film was made for Indian audiences: what Americans find over-the-top, is, in Bollywood, just right. And the storyline’s complexity doesn’t keep its twists and turns from being any less revelatory.
By Anya Shukla
“It’s a party in the USA,” Miley Cyrus giggles over the audio system as I enter the Seattle Public Theater. As the audience chats, the music shifts to Lee Greenwood, who sings gruffly, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Seeing as we’re about to see a play about four white people struggling to create a historically accurate play about Thanksgiving, the choice of music is darkly ironic. Who gets to be an American? we’re asked even before the play starts. Are all Americans really free?
As the lights go down, we are greeted with a video of a Thanksgiving performance by elementary schoolers. As they cheerfully chant about what “the Natives gave to me” while wearing stereotypical Native American costumes, the audience cringes. This song, and those like it, are juxtaposed with that of Cyrus and Greenwood’s view of America. Even though we may believe that we are in, as one "The Thanksgiving Play" character states, “a post-post-racial society,” misrepresentation and prejudicial thinking still occur.
By Anya Shukla
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Although I had been warned by the sign at the front door—CAUTION: LOUD GUNSHOTS—I still started, pretzeled my arms into my chest, when the trigger was finally pulled. I sat, head buzzing, as the murderer monologued for the final two minutes of the play. The lights went down amidst audience mumblings, then I stood clapping with the room while the actors bowed. My chest was tight with anxiety all through the talkback, the drive home, my pre-bed face wash; even now, I can easily picture the muzzle flash. If art’s job is to affect individuals, then "Pass Over" deserves a raise.
I must confess that I didn’t do my research before seeing this play: once we got to ACT, my plus one quickly brought me up to speed on the rave reviews Antoinette Nwandu, "Pass Over"'s playwright, had received for the piece. "Pass Over" featured two young men at a street corner trying to get to the “Promised Land,” interacting both with one another and other characters; some called it a mash-up of "Waiting for Godot" and "The Exodus." I was skeptical: a play about two guys waiting by a road had never seemed like my cup of tea, and I’m not religious. So as the audience filed into their seats, I watched the two men onstage—one sleeping on the ground, the other punching a graffitied lamppost—and settled in for the long haul.