Collective Wins in 'Loss of Innocence'

It was the moment when he found out that golden celebrity couple Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson had broken up that Dipak D. Chaudhari ‘08 said he lost his innocence. Recalling his own numerous rejections by girls throughout his life because of his South Asian heritage, he realized that his innocence had always been on tenterhooks. Ironically, his only comfort is to “look at Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. They’re still together, and if they can make it, anyone can.”

Chaudhari’s monologue comically looked at the recurring theme in the aptly named “Loss of Innocence,” which was put on by the South Asian Women’s Collective and South Asian American Theatre in the Leverett Old Library Theatre this past weekend. Directed by Manisha Munshi ’06 and produced by Gayatri S. Datar ’07 and Tanuj D. Parikh ‘09, the show consisted of a group of monologues and dialogues exploring different topics ranging from death to sexuality.

All proceeds went to the Edhi Foundation for Earthquake relief in South Asia.

An original and powerful mixture of humor and solemnity, the performances were as varying as their topics. “Musings” was a spicy mixture of pop culture, personal identity, South Asian heritage and tasteful ethnic humor, while “The Matchmaker,” written by Tania R. James ’03 and performed by Munshi and Namarata Bhasin, made fun of the superficial public identities that South Asian Americans adopt—such as becoming a doctor, earning a lot of money, and marrying a “good Indian boy.”

In the more serious “Harvest,” T. Riya Sen ’07 tries to cope with her husband’s decision to sell his organs in order to support his family, while she carries on an affair with his brother.

However, “Gone Too Soon” by Sameera Haque ‘06 was nothing more than a trite rendition of the story in which a child discovers that her mother has cancer. While the story’s basic foundation is potent enough to have made a good performance through a strong delivery, the monologue was unoriginal and a little bland. It should have brought tears to the eyes, but instead, it seemed unrealistic—perhaps because Haque gave the 11-year-old character the personality and maturity of a six-year-old.

“Bubbles” co-written by Datar with performer Tatiana H. Chaterji ’08 was a generic exploration of how a trip to India changed a student’s perspective on life. While well-acted, the monologue sounded more like a dry recitation of a college essay than a moving piece of drama. Yet overall, “Loss of Innocence” was a riveting and touching experience.

Of particular note was the versatile Aditi Mallick ’08. In “Prom Night” (adapted by Sen), she was hilarious as a ditzy teen who resists her boyfriend’s attempts to have sex. From her exaggerated Indian accent to her commendable performance of getting intimate with the boyfriend (who the audience had to imagine), Mallick’s performance was side-splitting.

Later, in “Younger Wife” a completely transformed Mallick was seen kneeling on the ground, washing her husband’s feet. This Mallick was serious, moving and vulnerable—a woman without freedom or choice in her husband’s household. Without a program, it was very possible to have not have recognized her as the simpering, giggling girl of “Prom Night.”

Whether they were actors or writers, the “Loss of Innocence” team commendably illustrated world issues and South Asian American culture.

—Staff writer April B. Wang can be reached at abwang@fas.harvard.edu.