Unusual format: The English musical, Ek.
Usha Akella’s play ‘Ek,’ which narrates the story of Shirdi Sai Baba, was staged as an English musical in Austin, Texas.
Ek premiered at Austin, Texas, U.S., Raghunath Sapuram, writes:
It was an honour for me to watch the play, a musical. To see the magic of the little ‘gaun’ (village) called Shirdi with its simple villagers, simple hearts, love, gratitude and the irresistible pull of Baba’s presence in the village. I loved how Usha Akella, who became the marvellous instrument to conceive, script and produce this musical, and the team, brought out the spirituality and the knowledge through the story, song and dialogue.
The play opens with ‘Shirdi’ waking up early in the morning. One by one the villagers make their appearance at the village centre, and build up to a song and dance.
Shirdi, and we, are introduced to young Baba, the yogi! The mystic magic of Baba starts to unfold through the eyes of the village folk and the stories they relate to one another. Who is Baba? A saint, a yogi, an avatar, a prophet, a mystic!
The play beautifully brings out the human aspects, of love, gratitude, devotion, pain, song and fun! I have often wondered how it would have been if I had lived at the time of Jesus in the village where he grew up, and at the time of Krishna in the village where he played and made music. Now I have a glimpse of what it would have been like!
The stage setting and backdrops were amazing. Dwarakamai is the humble masjid (mosque) where Baba spent most of his life and is a crucial part of the Sai lore.
On the stage, a 15-feet high Dwarakamai was recreated. True to life dimensions and eerily lifelike, when assembled it was a slice of Shirdi in Austin.
Message of unity
A stirring Qawwali, powerful dances, moving bhajans, an inspired cast of children, young and senior people – a message of unity, of the One which is within us all and around us all!
The ‘Grinding, Grinding’ piece was very interesting. In the beginning, it was getting to me, and then I realised that this is exactly the point – the grinding of life, of Karma, affects us, when we observe with detachment and move through it, it frees us from the bondages. Very beautifully done!
I could tell that the audience was transported to a different world, especially in the second half of the play.
“ ‘Ek’ has equalled or even surpassed the Broadway musical shows … I won’t be surprised if one day ‘Ek’ will even be screened on the celluloid,” said a member of the audience.
“I was humbled by the faith in Baba people had ; it even prompted one member to drive from Dallas every weekend for practice. I discovered the joy in rendering simple, soulful music sans any rhythmic or vocal complexities,” revealed one of the actors in the play.
Suchitra Lata, well-known musician from Bangalore, has composed the music. She has done a phenomenal job in bringing out the mysticism in English and the mix of different musical styles. Devaguptapu Babu, Director (who also acted as Baba), Vinita Subramaniam, the choreographer, Kanaka Sathasivan, technical director, Satya Dwivedula, assistant director, Vani Ramgiri, cast director, and Raj Gadde, stage director, did a wonderful job in weaving it together into a visual and aural treat.
Kudos to the cast of over 40 actors and dancers, as well as the support team! Entirely from Texas, I know many of the cast members but I never knew they had such talent. They suited the roles so well, it did not seem as if they were acting. There were many magical moments in this play, but the special one for me was when all was still and silent with the passing of the saint.