By Jessica Callender
After 25 years of high-quality production, Naya Zamana has earned the reputation of being one of Guyana’s monumental annual dance and theatrical extravaganzas, and arguably the zenith of Indian dance productions in the country.
The performances on the evening of Saturday, August 25, brought a fresh and exhilarating experience – exactly what anyone expected of this 25th production.
The National Cultural Centre Stage burst to life with a whirlwind of vibrant colours, mesmerising dances, and fantastic theatrics. The ensemble held the packed audience at the edge of their seats with storylines set to music, drama, and dance, reminiscent of beloved Indian films.
Emotions were poured into every dramatic portrayal, and every dance, resonating deeply with the audience.
The trademark of Naya Zamana is its ability to shed light on pertinent social issues. Numerous women and girls in the audience could empathise with the struggles of young women on stage, who faced hurtful comments about their appearance from family and peers in their community. Constantly bombarded with remarks like “too skinny” or “gaining too much weight,” these women ultimately realised that negative opinions will always exist, and one must find inner confidence in their self-worth, without resorting to comparisons with others.
Then, the audience followed the enthralling journey of the male lead, Ahmed Masi Wali, as he evolved in his understanding of gender equality. Over the span of 3.5 hours, the audience saw him risk losing the woman he deeply loves while also alienating his sisters. He reached the realisation that nurturing his relationships with the women in his life requires personal growth and self-improvement.
A heart-wrenching performance by a young actress vividly illustrated the grim realities faced by young women trapped in emotionally abusive relationships. Despite enduring hardships in her relationship, she struggled to break free due to the fear of judgment from friends and family who could dismiss the seriousness of her situation since there’s no apparent “physical” harm. She also highlighted that those who knew him perceived a kinder side to himself that he exhibited in public. The audience witnessed the stark contrast in his behavior behind closed doors and its profound impact on her. This narrative deeply resonated with the audience, especially in a society prone to public commentary on similar situations.
While many heavy themes are tackled, the younger performers infused a youthful sense of playfulness into their acts, paired with remarkable discipline and professionalism. The children dazzled in their vibrant costumes, bringing the stage alive with cheerful and lively energy. Some dance routines even sprinkled “Bollywood magic” onto the popular pop song “I Like Me Better” by Lauv, creatively combined with “Chaap Tilak.”
Avasa Persaud, Ahmed Masi Wali, and Kayla Persaud in a scene from Naya Zamana 25. (Photo: Amanda Richards)
The sizzling performances, which were augmented by theatrical smoke and fog inadvertently triggered the fire alarm just after intermission; yet this minor disruption failed to overshadow the astonishing production that moved the audience to a standing ovation by the end of the evening.
Exceptional storytelling that strikes a perfect balance is a testament to the skill of the stage directors, set designers, costume designers, and sound technicians.
Written, choreographed and directed by Dr Vindhya Persaud with sister Trishala Simantini Persaud designing costume and set, Naya Zamana 25 will not easily be forgotten and we are sure the audience is waiting for the next production.