Trees, People, and their Roots, by Agastya Kohli

As you are aware, Pratidhwani’s mission is to create performing opportunities for artists of South Asian descent. We have been able to do this by staging Indian plays in Hindi and Bangla, by staging South Asia centric English plays, and last year, we took a play that had nothing to do with South Asia, and painted it with a desi brush. All along, I've wondered, wouldn't it be nice if we could generate our own material, which would be closer to the lives we live here in the US, while our roots extend back to India or elsewhere in South Asia?

Tulika Kumar
In early 2011, I met with some local desi writers and invited them to write short, one-act plays, that could be stitched together to create a local, home-grown evening of theatre.

Tulika wrote a play called ‘The Hand Reader’, and I enjoyed reading it so much, I asked her to write some more. She in return told me how much she enjoyed writing a play, and was going to write two more! She then sent me two plays of about the same length as the first, called ‘The Son’ and ‘United States V. Nani Ji’. She called the collection ‘The Banyan Tree Trilogy’.

A banyan tree grows from its roots in its native soil, and after reaching a stable stature, it drops new roots from its branches towards the ground. This metaphor of a tree parallels the stories of immigrant families: people who grew up in one culture, with one tradition, migrate to a new land and established new roots. The new roots – the next generation – breathe in the ways of a new culture, of this new soil, and take on a different hue, while still connected to the grand old tree.

After a couple of workshops, some updates to the script, and slightly modified titles, what you will see when you come to The Banyan Tree, is the first play jointly developed from scratch by a playwright and Pratidhwani, and the debut of a new local playwright. I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am about this new partnership, and of all the fruit this tree will bear in the days to come.  

Welcome to our little play. We hope you will enjoy the show.