The Artist Extraordinaire – ABHIJIT PARADKAR
From running off stage while reciting the ‘Pasaaydaan’ as a child, to owning the stage with his spellbinding performances, Abhijit Paradkar’s journey has been fascinating!
His Naatak journey began in 2002, while he was studying for his Masters at the State University of New York at Buffalo, New York. Along with his friend Kedar Deshpande, he formed a hobby theatre group called ‘Chaitanya Natya Sanstha’ which later became ‘Natyagandhar’ , and started producing and acting in Hindi plays. He also started celebrating Ganeshotsav at his home in Buffalo which in no time became the most popular cultural event for students as well as local families. Different cultural events every day for all 5 days of Utsav, was the most fascinating part of this Ganeshotsav. One of the main attractions of the Ganeshotsav would be a natak produced by Chaitanya Natya Sanstha. Maharashtra Mandal Buffalo also gave them a platform to stage their shows.
Towards the end of his student days in Buffalo, Abhijit started his foray into Marathi plays. The first few among them being ‘Varya Varachi Varaat, Vatvat, Pudhari Pahije’ by Pu La Deshpande. He took these shows to various Marathi mandals across America, including Rochester, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, NYC and Philadelphia. Vatvat then went on to be selected for the BMM Convention in Atlanta in 2005, thereby giving Abhijit and his team a chance to showcase their talent on a wider platform, reaching out to a wider audience.
Abhijit’s Naatak journey continued as he moved to different cities while working as a consultant and it really started to gain momentum when he moved to Detroit in 2011. The Detroit audience was witness to plays such as ‘Vatvat’, ‘Premaat Padla Ki Asach Honar’, ‘Nishpaap’, Purush, Moruchi Maushi, asa zalach kasa and Ranangan. Always experimenting with different genres, these plays saw him slip into all roles effortlessly. To date, the team Natyagandhar’ has given us 22 plays which have had over 50 shows across the USA!!
On the choice of plays, he states that they seek out different genres to keep the audience experience new each time! The focus is on a strong and challenging script. He also makes a conscious effort to include as many new people as possible. He cites his biggest challenge yet, to be ‘Ranangan’ a historic drama based on the battle of panipat, which was showcased on an epic scale at the Maharashtra Mandal Detroit in summer 2014. As not many details were known about this part of history, a lot of research had to be carried out; to make it authentic, the costumes and most of the props were sourced from India, the cast was carefully chosen and history was truly made!
Abhijit acknowledges all the team members who have been with him on this journey, notably Chaitanya Puranik his Director and the backstage team, who play the key role in making the production a success! Speaking fondly of Chaitanya, Abhijit states that he is the ‘heart and soul’ of the group and his personal mentor. He commends Chaitanya’s understanding of the medium and his excellent hold over the craft of drama. Chaitanya has extensive experience of theater, having acted in and directed many commercial plays in India. His knowledge and understanding of the art coupled with the patience and talent to get the best out of each performer, is the secret of success of their plays. Chaitanya lives in North Carolina and does most of his direction through Skype and does come personally for a couple of days. Abhijit says that the whole team absolutely enjoys the ‘marathon’ weekend practice when Chaitanya comes for 2-3 days personally in Detroit and coaches everyone, with rehearsals going on for upto 12-14 hours at a stretch sometime.
A very shy person in his private life, Abhijit admits that a different energy takes over when he performs on stage, thus connecting him to people! Not surprisingly, Abhijit also met his wife Rupali Paradkar when she auditioned for a play that he was doing, in Buffalo, New York. Ever since, she has been part of every play and supports him in all his endeavours.
He does not take any additional financial support , except for what the Mandals offer, most times putting in his own money for supplies and having an open house for rehearsals! He says audience acceptance and their words of appreciation provide him the fuel to carry on doing what he loves the most!
Abhijit is a true inspiration in how he follows his passion selflessly, dedicating every free moment to his art, whilst managing a full time job as a business analyst, being a husband and father of two children! He has also recently been admitted to the prestigious Ross School of Business for an MBA!
He expresses his gratitude to the Ann Arbor Marathi Mandal and the Maharashtra Mandal of Detroit for always giving him the opportunity to showcase new plays in the Michigan area. We now look forward to his new play’ Shikaar’ in May 2015 and wish him all the best for his future projects!