A trained TV journalist and script writer, Rashma N Kalsie, 45, is not new to theatre and the arts. She shot into the limelight when she was asked to participate in a playwrights’ workshop led by the renowned playwright, Mahesh Dattani, in 1998 in Delhi. The workshop was sponsored by India Habitat Centre and TAG, a theatre company to select and train 15 playwrights from across India. A lecture series on Natyashastra, an ancient text of performing arts, by Dr. Bharat Gupt, initiated her inquiry into the ancient Indian dramatic tradition, she says. In Melbourne, Kalsie is finding ground foraying into the theatre scene. She has been representing Indian theatre in Australia as an Ambassador on MTC Connect program, an initiative of Melbourne Theatre Company and Multicultural Arts Victoria, since 2013. Her latest The Day I Left Home is having its premiere showing at NEON Readings, MTC’s Festival of Independent Theatre. She tells the Indian Weekly why theatre still has its charms, and more.
The Day I Left Home – does this play reflect most Indians in general here?
The Day I Left Home – Melbourne Taalam is about 3 Indians on different visas – student visa, work visa, and spouse visa. Their problems and their struggles are universal. Money is always tight, our values are at conflict and accidents are more tragic here. Loneliness is something we all deal with here and accept it as part of life. The play is inspired by real-life stories involving Indians including a suicide by an Indian student.
Some Indians do well here but assimilation comes at a price. And I truly believe we never stop being Indian and we never quite become Australian. My big message through this play is : There’s no shame in going back if things don’t go well for you.
Is theatre as a form of entertainment losing its popularity?
Theater is losing popularity but it has its charms. Writing for a theater is a challenge. I love its immediacy. I like to see my characters come to life on stage.
How many plays have you written/directed in India and Australia?
I have done 2 plays about Australian Indians – The Lost Dog and The Day I Left Home – Melbourne Taalam. The Lost Dog was performed in 2012 and 2014. My recent play, The Rejected Girl, was short-listed in an all-India contest. My early career play, Meri script hai kahan, was performed at FICCI.
Does Melbourne offer a more thriving or stable environment for theatre than Delhi?
Theater is more commercially viable in Melbourne. Production standards are very high here. But regional theatre is still very strong in India. Gujarati and Marathi plays are extremely popular. Kathakali (which is a dance-drama) performances are sold out in Kerala. There’s a paucity of original plays in India because writers want paid jobs with TV and Indian films.
Tell us about your book
I have co-authored a fantasy novel, Ohh! Gods Are Online.. published by a renowned Indian publishing house, Srishti Publishers in June, 2013. My book is well into its second print and was featured by all leading national dailies like The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Statesman, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Business Bhaskar, The Sunday Standard and Indian magazines ‘The Man’, ‘Perfect Woman’ ,Travel Plus magazine and in-flight magazine of Go Air airlines. Book launch at the Habitat Centre was telecast on the Indian National Channel. Ohh! Gods Are Online made a presence at The World Book Fair, Delhi and Literary Festival at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. It is available in all leading book stores and can be ordered on Amazon.com, Flipkart, Infibeam.com. Infibeam.Com displayed our book cover as a banner in their Indian Authors section. Landmark Book store, Bangalore had featured the book in Bookseller’s recommended shelf and MediaMart Stores at Bombay and Chennai airports had shelved it in the Best Sellers for the month.
Any awards or recognition so far?
My new play, The Rejected Girl, was shortlisted in an all India One-Act plays competition by Mumbai Theatre Guide and Astitva in August, 2014. In June, 2014 my story, Amore, was published on feminafastfiction.com, a Femina Magazine website for shorts. In my early years of writing I have contributed stories and articles to Woman’s Era and Manushi magazine. I had made a presentation about playwriting at Women’s Way in Cincinnati, Ohio in Oct, 2012.