PRESS REVIEWS

Take d Milk, Nah?: Yeah, take d milk

by Colin Thomas, 18 OCT 2019 

I’ve been so bored in the theatre so often lately that I’ve been starting to wonder if I’m dead inside. That’s why I’m feeling so high right now:  Take d Milk, Nah? kept me consistently stimulated and engaged.

From the get-go, solo performer Jivesh Parasram is Mr. Charmingpants. (It probably helped that, on opening night, he kicked a footlight out of place on his first entrance and dealt adroitly with the embarrassment.)

Jiv, as he calls himself throughout the show — I’ll use it as his character name — has set himself a paradoxical task: performing an identity play that questions the notion of identity.

The text, which Parasram co-created with director Tom Arthur Davis and assistant director Graham Isador, is associative, witty, and sometimes provocative.

It takes the mickey out of identity plays: they are “especially popular in Canada,” Jiv says. “Or, if not popular, common.” There’s always snow.

Vancouver Sun: Take d Milk, Nah?, a candid, frequently funny discussion of race, religion and identity

by Stuart Derdeyn, 7 OCT 2019

If there was any question about whether writer/performer Jiv Parasram approached creating Take d Milk, Nah? with more than a fair bit of fun, one need go no further than his own description of his one-man monologue about growing up Indian, Hindu, West Indian and Canadian: “In Take d Milk, Nah?, Jivesh Parasram blends personal storytelling and ritual to walk the audience through the Hin-do’s and Hin-don’ts at the intersections of these cultures.”

Later, the author lays out his plan to make the first Indo-Canadian identity play be the one to destroy the whole concept.

The show evolved out of dramaturge and co-creator Graham Isador’s regular storytelling show at a bar in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. Parasram and others were sharing anecdotes on identity and asked to keep the pieces tight and, hopefully, funny. Parasram jumped up on stage and started telling a story about birthing a cow, and by the end of his six-minute set had birthed an idea for the full-length piece that is Take d Milk, Nah?

The Georgia Straight :Take d Milk, Nah?'s Jivesh Parasram upends identity play with heartbreaking truths and hilarious asides

by Danny Kai Mak, 23 OCT 2019 

Can a topic as faceted as identity be sufficiently explored on-stage? Does a performer speak directly about his or her own heritage and contemporary beliefs, or speak more philosophically, likening selfhood to a life raft or blade of grass? Jivesh Parasram’s Take d Milk, Nah? is a sojourn into hyphenated history, a one-man show of personal anecdotes and brief history lessons, heartbreaking truths and hilarious asides, all couched in an inventive deconstruction of its dramatic genre. 

An Indo-Caribbean Hindu Canadian, Parasram describes the difficulty of existing in the dichotomy of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he grew up: he was either “black” or “white”, with such racial distinctions deepening post–9/11, when systemic ignorance spurred hateful encounters.

A Vancouver Guldasta: welcome nuance 

By Colin Thomas, 4 OCT 2018

It was like meeting real people. And they took me places I’d never been. In A Vancouver Guldasta playwright Paneet Singh introduces us to the Dhaliwals, a Sikh Punjabi family living in South Vancouver in 1984. It’s June. Sikh militants who want to create a new nation called Khalistan have occupied the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest site of Sikhism.

In A Vancouver Guldasta, Chattar, the dad in the Dhaliwal family, is desperately trying to make phone contact with his brother, who lives near the Golden Temple, but telephone communication with the Punjab has been cut off and, like many families in Vancouver, the Dhaliwals twist in uncertainty.

The Georgia Straight : A Vancouver Guldasta's exploration of home is intimate, generous, and affecting

By Kathleen Oliver, 4 OCT 2018

The personal is political, but the politics gets very personal in A Vancouver Guldasta.
The play is set in June of 1984 in a South Vancouver home, where a family watches the news of the Indian government’s attack on the Golden Temple, the Sikh community’s holiest shrine. 

Guldasta means “bouquet” in Punjabi, and it reflects the diversity of the family’s reactions to the crisis. Teenage daughter Rani wants to join in the protests that have been erupting locally, but her father, Chattar, is terrified that there may be consequences for his home, his business, or his family, including a brother in Amritsar, whom he hasn’t been able to contact since the temple was invaded. His wife Niranjan is loyal but conflicted. Rani’s friend, Andy, a Vietnamese refugee who lives in the family’s basement suite with his parents, wants to protect her from the horrors of war.

The Vancouver Arts Review : Vancouver Guldusta is a Refreshing Tale

By Maria Hassan

When I walked into the Culture Lab, I was welcomed into a home. It felt familiar, with floral couches and pictures of the Golden Temple, which I am accustomed to seeing in many Punjabi Sikh homes. “A Vancouver Guldasta”, thus, opened its arms and doors to welcome the audience into a riveting performance! The theme of a “Guldasta”, which means “bouquet” in Punjabi, seeps throughout the play to show the Home About various themes of diversity and how they all come together beautifully.

“A Vancouver Guldasta” takes place in a Punjabi Sikh home in Vancouver during the 1984 civil unrest and military attacks on Sikhs at the Golden Temple in India. Paneet Singh, the writer and director, allows the audience to step inside the living spaces of those who were affected by the tragedy.

La Source: Festival Of Lights and Culture

By Brittany Thomson, 23 OCT 2018

This year’s Diwali Festival in B.C. promises to both entertain and educate. Founded by Rohit Chokhani, Diwali in B.C. is an artistic platform and a celebration of the festival of lights during the Indian New Year. A multi-cultural festival, Diwali promises to engage artists and people from different backgrounds and specialties.

Raised in Mumbai, Chokhani grew up with the mindset that he would become a doctor or a lawyer. While pursuing a career in computer science, he managed only to participate in the arts as a side project.
Fast forward to 2018 and Chokhani is now an award-winning artistic director of Diwali in B.C. Having only founded Diwali B.C. in 2017, Chokhani has made a great deal of progress in making Diwali B.C. a B.C.-wide celebration. Chokhani’s day-to-day is filled with content curation, collaboration, partnerships and a lot of chai. Though making space for different perspectives can
be difficult, he credits his passion for providing a platform for artists that are not often represented as his driving force.
This year’s celebrations are themed New Horizons.

The Believers Are But Brothers : See it, believe it and think really hard

By Colin Thomas, 1 NOV 2018 

The Believers Are But Brothers is about the internet and it’s like the internet: it’s bursting with information and I’m not sure how to make sense of it, but I find it really fucking stimulating. In The Believers Are But Brothers—the title comes from the Quran—writer and performer Javaad Alipoor is particularly interested in those areas of the internet where young men, politics, and violence overlap.
One of his stated aims is to complicate the narrative of the dangerous young Muslim who gets radicalized online and, to a significant degree, he succeeds in that complication. Alipoor uses statistics: he informs us that, of the three million Muslims living in the UK, fewer than 300—a minute percentage—have joined Isis.
But the more resonant complication comes in the stories that Alipoor chooses to tell. For the record, Alipoor is British and comes from a Shia Muslim background.

The Georgia Straight : From live group chats to video projections, The Believers Are But Brothers clicks all the links

by Kathleen Oliver, 2 NOV 2018

Wow, you can pack a lot into an hour of theatre.
In The Believers Are But Brothers British writer-performer Javaad Alipoor uses multiple interfaces, including direct address to the audience, video projection, and a live group chat on WhatsApp to explore, in his words, “men, politics and the Internet”. The play’s form mirrors its subject matter, clicking link after associative link.
But The Believers Are But Brothers is not an attack on social media; Alipoor tells us that he appreciates the community he finds there and values the opportunity it affords to “blur the edges of [him]self.” The play raises thought-provoking questions about just how blurry those edges can get. 

Vancouver Observer: Bro'hood : believe it or else...

By Lincoln Kaye, 31 OCT 2018

 

In a startling twist on theatre-going norms, not only are we not ordered to shut off our cellphones as we settle into the airless black box of the Cultch’s Culture Lab; we’re in fact enjoined to keep them live and loud and tuned into the encrypted messaging screens of WhatsApp.
That – along with Yorkshire accented soliloquys, on-screen projections, fluid pantomimes and GameBoy shoot-em-ups – is how artist/activist/analyst Javaad Alipoor means to buttonhole us tonight.
It’s a compound medium all his own, to convey an urgent message, to wit: the medium is the message...is the medium…is the message…ad McLuhanesque delirium.
But this infinite regress echo chamber has taken on terrifying new resonance in our own age of social media. It hands geeky sociopaths globe-spanning power to incite stochastic terror from their laptops or cellphones.

Megaphone Magazine: Uniting East, West, and all the Rest

By Brit Bachmann 

“What I like about Diwali as a concept from my culture is the underlying theme of unity,”
says Rohit Chokhani, Jessie award-winning curator and artistic director of Diwali in B.C. “I think we need to appreciate where all of us are the same—at the human core, soul level.” Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, which symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness. During the celebration, bright lights are illuminated in homes, businesses and places of worship.
Diwali in B.C., not to be mistaken with other celebrations of Diwali, runs from Oct. 3 to Nov. 17 in Vancouver, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Vernon and Nanaimo. It is a multicultural, multidisciplinary performance festival in its second year.

This year’s theme is “New Horizons,” represented in part through the expansion into communities outside of the Lower Mainland. Diwali in B.C.’s five-year plan is to extend celebrations across British Columbia to develop an audience for traditional Indian dance and storytelling, and in the process, build a circuit for performers.

The Georgia straight: Fall arts preview 2018: Arno Kamolika's Bharatanatyam journey takes her from Bangladesh to B.C.

By Janet Smith, 12 September 2018 

From afar, Indian classical dance is easily perceived as a homogeneous art form marked by dramatic facial expressions, articulated hand gestures, and sparkling costumes. In this context, it might not be at all surprising to hear a story about a Bengali girl who fell in love with bharata natyam.

But in Bangladesh, a largely Muslim country, that dance was a rare pursuit when Arno Kamolika was young. After all, the
storytelling form has its roots in totally different cultures— Buddhist and Hindu ritual and mythology. Other classical styles
like odissi and manipuri were much more popular in Bangladesh, and Kamolika studied those in a fine-arts school as a girl.
However, when she was about 16, a bharata natyam guru came to lead a two-month workshop, and Kamolika says she was hooked for life.
“It was the storytelling of it,” she says with passion over the phone to the Straight from her home here. “And that was when I decided I won’t do any other dance. What triggered me about bharata natyam was I could see the artists who were getting so emotionally involved with their character—and I always have been a great fan of movies and theatre.

The Arts Scene: Diwali In B.C. Expands To Three New Cities In 2018! 

By Taslim Jaffar, 2 OCT 2018

As a South Asian woman and a writer, I’m always interested in learning about initiatives that combine both of those identities. While I favour writing creative nonfiction and opinion pieces, I am pulled to poetry and theatre for my entertainment, and to stretch me out of my own mind, into the stories of others. When I identify with the stories acted out on stage or film, or spoken from a poet’s mouth, it’s an even deeper experience for me. Learning about the expansion of Diwali in B.C.
makes me so happy, knowing that more people have access to such stories that they can either
identify with or learn from.
Nobody understands this better than the creative behind such initiatives, Rohit Chokhani, who is an award-winning producer and director. The recipient of the Vancouver NOW Representation and Inclusion award at the 2018 Jessie Richardson Awards, Chokhani is recognized for encouraging the diverse voices in theatre and dance, and for creating a platform for South Asian
artists.

Tri City New: Director asks audience to put on blindfolds

By Janis Cleugh, 6 NOV 2018

For Bombay Black — an award-winning play that’ll be mounted in Coquitlam this week as part of the South Asian Diwali celebrations — director Rohit Chokhani wants viewers to “see” life the same way as his blind protagonist.
Or, at least, for part of it.
Chokhani is asking guests to put on blindfolds for certain parts of the show “to understand what it’s like to be blind in Mumbai,” he said. “There are scenes in the play where we are depicting dark outs so the audience can imagine things in our mind, much as he does.”
The 2006 story by Anosh Irani, who moved from Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) to Vancouver in 1998 to pursue his writing career, is set in present-day India.
It follows Apsara, who works as an erotic dancer; her manager mother, Padma, with whom she lives; and Apsara’s blind client Kamal.

The Georgia Straight: Rohit Chokhani and Diwali in B.C. amplify South Asian voices

By Janet Smith, 3 OCT 2018

One way to describe Rohit Chokhani’s approach to curation at Diwali in B.C. is, as he calls it, “finding the diversity within the diversity”.
While putting together this year’s festival, the artistic director has found performances that cover vastly different South Asian experiences. There’s a U.K. play about online extremism, an intimate play about a Vancouver Punjabi family dealing with tragedy in their homeland, and a classical-Indian-dance rendition of a Bengali myth.
But Chokhani’s work is also about a kind of cultural diplomacy—a honed mix of collaboration, networking, and communication. And that’s no big surprise, considering this is the producer and theatre artist who won the Vancouver NOW Representation and Inclusion Award at July’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards.

Westender: Sadness, Laughter, Hope in Happy Place

By Jo Ledingham

It’s hard to imagine a more dynamic group of actors – all women – sometimes all on the Firehall stage at one time: Diane Brown, Nicola Cavendish, Sereana Malani, Adele Noronha, Laara Sadiq, Colleen Wheeler and Donna Yamamoto.
Under the direction of Roy Surette, recently returned to Vancouver after 10 years at The Belfry followed by 10 years at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre, each actor creates a unique, well defined individual. Yet despite the characters’ different histories they have one thing in common: attempted suicide

Vancouver sun: Dipti Mehta honours women as part of Diwali in B.C. celebrations

By Shawn Conner, 17 OCT 2017

One might not think there’s not a lot of overlap between acting and medical research, but to theatre artist and cancer researcher Dipti Mehta, the two professions are more similar than they might appear.
Both require persistence and patience. And perfection is elusive.“As a scientist, you can never say ‘Okay, I’m done studying, and now I’m just going to work,’” said Mehta. “You have to study and look at what’s new in the world. It’s the same thing
as an artist. You have to keep training yourself.”
Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan, the one-woman play she is bringing to Vancouver, is a case in point. The production has gone through a number of alterations since its 2009 premiere. The latest is a change to the choreography. “We added an element in our set, and changed some of choreography to go with it,” she said.

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