NRI playwright wins award in Britain

London: Well-known actor-playwright Sudha Bhuchar and artistic director Kristine Landon-Smith, joint founders of London-based Tamasha Theatre Company, have won this year`s prestigious First Women Awards in the entertainment category.

Now in their sixth year, the First Women Awards recognise women at the top of their professions, leading the way for the next generation. They are held in association with Lloyds Banking Group and supported by the CBI and the Real Business.

Tamasha was formed in 1989 by Bhuchar and Landon-Smith with a mission to bring contemporary work of Asian influence to the British stage. They are also the winners of the Asian Women of Achievement Award for Arts and Culture in 2005.

The women awards citation said the pair aims to create a space where British Asian talent takes centre stage, through original writing and productions that provoke debate, ideas, passion and laughter.

The duo told Real Business, the online Britain resource for entrepreneurs: "Being recognised by the First Women Award is a great highlight of our busy 21st birthday year. It is a huge reward which adds to the satisfaction we achieve from developing theatre-makers of the future and bringing Asian stories to the stage."

Tamasha`s debut production in 1989, Untouchable, was an adaption of Indian novelist Mulk Raj Anand`s novel following a day in the life of an Indian latrine cleaner. It had an entirely British Asian cast, playing alternate nights in English and Hindi. Since then, Tamasha has produced over 50 well-received plays, with Sudha being the lead character and Landon-Smith directing them.

Among the recognised ones was A Tainted Dawn, which was shown at the Edinburgh International Festival to mark 50 years of India`s partition. Parminder Nagra, an unknown actor who was part of the cast, went on to play a lead role in "Bend it Like Beckham" after having been spotted in the show by director Gurinder Chadha.

The company`s 1998`s Bollywood homage, Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings a Funeral, proved to be another hit with audiences nationally. In 2005, Tamasha`s The Trouble with Asian Men, an adaptation of Rohinton Mistry`s epic novel A Fine Balance, enjoyed two sell out runs at London`s Hampstead Theatre.

Tamasha was also commissioned for adapting into a play White Mughals, the acclaimed book of BBC`s former India correspondent William Darlymple. The book tells the story of a romantic love affair and marriage between James Achilles Kirkpatrick, a rising star in the East India Company, and Khair-un-Nisa, a Hyderabadi princess.

The duo is currently busy finalising this year`s first production, The House of Bilquis Bibi, which opens in London July 22. It is adapted from The House of Bernarda Alba by Spanish dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca. Set in a town in Punjab in Pakistan, it tells a personal yet subtly political story of small town lives with global ties in present-day Pakistan. Famous Indian singer and actress Ila Arun plays the domineering matriarch Bilquis, leading an all-female cast of nine.

For her part, Landon-Smith has taught at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney, Australia, the National School of Drama in India, Central School of Speech and Drama, London, and L`Ecole Philippe Gaulier, Paris.



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