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Chai Latte Productions- Recognizing Artists In The Community

Aqsa and Sunny

Photos by Hakim’s Studio

"I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." Oscar Wilde has said about theatre. Atlanta's Aqsa Farooqui seems to embrace this philosophy whole heartedly along with a mission to value creativity, open-mindedness and an innate desire to learn more about other cultures. Aqsa's brain child, Chai Latte Productions endeavors to create the enriching experience of socially relevant theater and raise awareness about South Asian American culture. The production house under its original banner has also forayed into the world of cinema.

Originally titled Khoobsurat Productions, Chai Latte Productions, Aqsa tells us is an offshoot of Annie Farooqui Fund, she founded in 2006 in memory of her mother.  Aqsa wanted to present an event and Darshan, her friend she tells us encouraged her to do something different. Aqsa had a rough draft of her plays and they decided to produce and present them at the event. As a result, under the banner of Raksha Inc. two plays about domestic violence  "Badaltey Rishtey” and “Meri Zindagi, Mera Faisla” by Annie Farooqui Fund featured and captivated the audience turning out to be huge success and an encouraging start for Aqsa's maiden venture. "I realized I like writing the plays and not just raising the money" Aqsa says about her entry into world of theatre.


In 2007, Khoobsurat Productions adapted “Meri Zindagi, Mera Faisla” into a movie followed by “Vivaah or Nikaah”. Khoobsurat Productions shot a short-film "Veiled" about Muslim women written and directed by Asad Farooqui in 2010.

In July of 2011, Khoobsurat Productions transformed into a nonprofit organization and rebranded to Chai Latte Productions. In 2012, Chai Latte presented their new production “Peelay”, about alcoholism at the Atlanta Unity Theater.

"All of our plays are original and sometimes writing happens and sometimes it does not. In order to stay on people's mind and do something that is positive, the idea to appreciate all different artists of south asian origin ( desi) came up. " Aqsa says. As a result, Chai Latte initiated a bimonthly series named " Appreciating Desi Artists in Atlanta (ADAA) " to celebrate artists from the community. The series kicked off this September 16th at  Ashiana Restaurant which marks the 6th year of the group's inception with well known urdu poet Sadaf Farooqui and singer Rekha Pallath who recently released the CD "Spirited" as chief guests of the evening. The no entry fee event served Chai to all guests.

"Everyone is in their own community doing their own things and I really have this vision of bringing all the people together and making sure that even though we are part of different groups that we still part of one community" Aqsa says. The idea is to recognize and have two artists from different communities perform at the event every two months. Meanwhile Chai Latte will continue to present plays once in every six months. "It does not matter what language, they just bring their people and perform" Aqsa envisions.

"Promoting local artists, be it actors or singers is a huge part of our agenda - not just the main actors or performers but the stage managers and everyone behind the scenes. We want to do socially relevant, entertaining theatre and we really want to raise awareness of the south Asian American culture here, we want people from the main stream media to be part of the process and spread the word out there" Aqsa says are some of the goals she has for her production house.

Her background in psychology and experience in working with Raksha, Aqsa tells us inspires her to write about socially relevant issues. She also likes to add a little humor to her plays to lighten up an otherwise serious south asian population.

"We always have subtitles in our plays for those who are not south Asian and they truly enjoy the play and some of them enjoyed it more than the south Asian people. I feel like this is a way to have inter-cultural relations in a very different kind of way. They get to see or stories on stage" Aqsa says about reaching out to a global audience. The recent play featured an actor from Spanish origin.

"I would love to do a play where all different cultures come together. I usually write in Hindi or Urdu but I want to write in English too." Aqsa says and also adds that she would love to act if someone was willing to share directing and production responsibilities.

Aqsa has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry and a minor in Psychology from Agnes Scott College. She later enrolled in the Professional Counseling program at Georgia State University, earning her a Masters degree. She is currently employed full time with Raksha and is not practicing therapy. Aqsa also wrote a column for NRI Pulse until last year.

Having learnt from the challenges, and supported by a great team as she puts it, Aqsa's goal is to continue to write, direct and produce meaningful cinema and theater for the South Asian American community. She believes Chai Latte has all the talent and resources proven by their previous work. The talent includes but is not limited by stage manager, several accomplished community actors (collectively over 20 years of experience), original stories, cinematographers, event planners, make-up artists, creative directors and executive producers. Each play/film is unique she says is  because of the combination of entertainment and an underlying message.

"We want more people to join us. I want to promote local art, theatre in particular. We all have art in us and it needs to be recognized and to me that I biggest part."  Aqsa signs off. She truly beehives in encouraging art in all it's forms, whether it is being right in the center of the action or attending events organized by other groups and supporting others.

Chai Latte is a creative, young group developing new ideas to promote the vision of inspiring, entertaining theater for the South Asian American community and believe that their movement is for a greater cause, something bigger than us all. Here's wishing Chai  Latte success in all their future endeavors.

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