Meet Natasha Kathi-Chandra, the creative brain behind Namashkar, the production company which aims to launch and produce new female-led writing, dedicated to changing or boldly challenging the narratives and stories of women on stage – particularly BAME women. Namashkar strives for representation both on and off the stage & screen, making sure their team reflects diversity across both their actors and their creatives who are behind the scenes. Natasha’s plays have received rave reviews, however running a production company isn’t without its challenges. Be inspired today by reading Natasha’s interview on getting started, perseverance and striking a chord with audiences.
Name(s): Natasha Kathi-Chandra
Age at time of interview: 28
Where’s home? London & Hyderabad, India
Profession: Theatre director and writer
Company Name: Namashkar
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
It was never clear what I was going to get into upon joining university- I only discovered towards the end of my difficult secondary school life in India that I was quite good at telling stories. I come from an incredibly strong legacy of academics and professionals in my family and struggled with the idea of the “artist’s life” because of the stigma and misunderstanding attached to it in various cultures. I chose subjects in the Arts (Film, Media, Drama , English) at A Level but was also encouraged to take a Business A Level (as backup! ) but I eventually dropped it as I went on to excel in my other subjects, winning the subject prize in Film Studies and even being nominated for a college “Oscar” for Best Original screenplay ! This made me think I was going to become a writer and director for film. I battled with the idea of going to university and had a naive attitude of “artists/creatives don’t need a university degree.” But I also did not want to be the only person in my family without a degree ! So I did- which in hindsight I am really pleased about.
What is Namashkar and when did you launch?
Namashakar was launched in 2015, under which I staged my first play which was called The Infinite Line between Dating and Dying which I wrote, directed and produced. Namashkar in Sanskrit/Bengali means Greetings. Namashkar is a production company which aims to launch and produce new writing that is female led, dedicated to changing or boldly challenging the narratives and stories of women on stage particularly BAME women. We strive for representation both on and off stage & screen, making sure that our team reflects diversity across actors as well as creatives behind the scenes.
How did the idea for Namashkar come about and how did you get the ball rolling?
It came out of being technically unemployed BUT still working hard and UNPAID within the theatre industry. It was after a pretty consistent stream of rejections from paid jobs, that I was having dinner with a friend, in which we were relaying bad date stories. It was after one particularly creepy tinder date that the light bulb suddenly popped on- “hey ! maybe I should write about this” and “maybe I should create my own opportunities.” I then went to a bunch of other creatives turned friends who I had met on a project I was working on (for free) and said “ I’ve got this idea, will you be a part of it ?” and then I just did it- wrote, auditioned, rehearsed, hired and five star reviewed.
Namashkar’s aim actually changed over the years when I started to see more BAME work – particularly south asian female led work that was not being fairly represented off stage- by this I mean – plenty of new south asian writing but not a lot of south asian female directors attached to the work.
What were the initial challenges in getting started Namashkar?
FUNDING! In theatre, funding is always the biggest challenge. I was and had been working for free or for extremely low pay and I did not want to do the same to my team who were a bunch of extremely talented and hardworking artists in their own right. I wanted to make Namashkar a production company that offered a little bit more than just the opportunity.
Asian culture is at the core of your performances and you are breaking taboos through your work. Is there anything that you have to handle sensitively?
Definitely. It is the balance between respecting my culture and my upbringing which I am incredibly proud of but also calling out the patriarchy of it without it being directly related to anyone close to me which may be viewed as disrespect. I also don’t want to reiterate any stereotypes that we already battle with within our cultures, so it is striking that delicate balance.
The subject matters of your performances are very important, can you please share with us what your most recent show was about?
Our recent show was a double bill of two south asian female led pieces
Here’s a brief synopsis of both :
OM SHANTI F*CK
Ambika finds herself in bloody embarrassing hell when she gets up to find she’s left a period stain on the carpet in a sacred Hindu temple. Big deal?
2018. Sex, periods and the “Good Indian girl”. Ambika questions the strange myths of Indian culture and the sexist taboos that have made her feel inadequate to be a woman all her life.
A dramatic monologue using music and dance to explore the impact of cultural identity on one young British Indian woman, and the stigma around mental health in the Indian community. Doll Face is a gut-wrenching but hopeful account of a single Indian female in an abortion clinic reflecting on her upbringing, culture, society and the reality of trying to have it all.
The two piece had two protagonists who were aged about 10 years apart and we wanted to explore across two different generations how much had changed and how much are we still fighting for.
We had some brilliant reviews:
“A truly informative evening that brought to the audience’s attention the pressures people can be living under, purely because of age old traditions and beliefs. Natasha Kathi-Chandra has created an expert insight into Asian culture that educates so effectively, showing that not everyone fits perfectly into their culture, and the pressures that some live with trying to please family.” – ★★★★ Flat Cap Theatre Review
“The character is relatable and highlights the conversations all women of colour need to be having. Karen is engaging and does well to do her job, which is to get the audience to react…and react we did. Karen is a very talented writer and actress and I’m excited to see what the future has in store for her.” – ★★★★ Too British To Be Asian
and our latest :
“One aspect of the double bill that impressed me most was its directness. These short, fast plays are fresh. Although their themes overlap each one feels distinct. As I said, I learnt a lot from watching them. The presentation is spot on. The deceptively short running time makes the show feel like an air strike, only the force it unleashes is understanding.”-★★★★★ kimprovised
You’re very much making a movement in the circles of performance, especially for South Asian Females. What has been your biggest learning?
Do you experience self doubt?
Every day. Every day I think maybe I should’ve just been a teacher or a lawyer … something normal and consistent, but self-doubt also empowers me to keep at it.
Any fuck ups along the way?
Plenty! But mainly it is how to handle trust. It is difficult to find trustworthy people to work with who share the same fire and passion as you. Put everything in writing and get it all signed even if you think you are working with a friend. This is important.
What has been your best moment/biggest achievement so far as a result of setting up Namashkar?
When people & theatres I admire/look up to in the industry are as pleased to meet me as I am them because they’ve heard about my show and heard my name – that felt good but I think the biggest moment for me so far was when I hosted my very first Q&A after the double bill at Battersea Arts Centre and women in the audience, wiping tears away , thanked me profusely for putting this work on stage. I have never felt so humbled and moved by the impact the shows I have created have had on people.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Be kind, gracious and supportive of everyone you come across in the industry no matter how they treat you. Above all, be brave.
What do you think is next for Namashkar in the next year?
A brand new production- braver-bolder-bigger! International and local .
Just for fun…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are… work, using my mobile phone less and making sure there are groceries in the fridge.
Three startups U 30 I admire are.. Caspa Arts, The Other Box and SASS (South Asian Sisters Speak)The Twenty Mile Club is…supportive and important !
Check out Flat Cap Theatre’s Full Review Here
More Guest Writing by Natasha Here