Pooja Nansi’s play, ‘You Are Here’ held at the ongoing Kalaa Utsavam - Indian Festival of Arts Singapore leaves you with two thoughts.
First about Pooja Nansi the performer. She is a master storyteller and a good actor. She supplements both with a beautiful voice and guitar-playing skills. ‘You Are Here’, that went for an hour had audiences in rapt attention. Everyone waiting for the next surprise she would throw at people. Coming in the form of a twist in narration, dexterous use of equipment and the use of the multi-level stage.
Director Joel Tan effectively and beautifully covering Pooja’s rather long journey starting from her great grandparents to her own wedding.
Second thought is a surprise. Play throws light on a facet of Singapore, which certain category of immigrants are never exposed to. Giving a window into the life of a child growing in Singapore in the local schooling system. Play's powerful dialogues and gripping delivery by Pooja gave a good peep into the challenges encountered at different stages of her life from primary school to secondary to college and finally getting married.
Her melodious rendition of, ‘Aye Meray Pyare Watan’ requires a special mention. It definitely got a lump or two in the throats of many in the audiences.
Talking about how the play came about she said, “I was writing a lot of poems about my grandparents and it was one of those things that kept coming up again and again in my writing. The more I was writing about them, the more I felt like it wasn’t just about my grandparents because there were a lot of these exciting stories about individuals in my family who are long gone. And I just thought some of these stories sounded so cinematic and epic”.
After exchanging ideas about the poetry she had written, Pooja’s creation was done in a performance form by Joel. The expressions were about her family and what getting married would trigger. This was in early 2015 when she was getting married and Joel was interested to see the wedding.
Mentioning about the idea of having a marriage, Pooja said there were “templates” of marriage. Whether you want a church wedding, or if you are going to have a Malay wedding or a temple wedding.
She also told us about her own wedding, “My husband is South Indian and I am Gujarati, we had a fusion blend wedding and it was really difficult for me to just do the things the way I wanted to. So, it got me thinking about what my place was in Singapore and what it is we understand when we talk about Indian-ness… it is different for each of us and how we’re brought up is different and also, a lot of my Indian-ness is different from my husband’s Indian-ness because my parents are migrants”.
‘You Are Here’ brings out the mash of the feelings where she is trying to situate herself and about the little things that placed here, to tell her where she belongs to racially or culturally, or even because of your gender. The title of the show, ‘You Are Here’ came out with the idea of how when we look on the map and it says you are here.
Pooja portrays the act of arrival, about when we think about migration stories. It juxtaposes stories of her great grandparents, grandparents and parents’ migrations and their marriages against hers.