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Friends of Mustafa Ajmeri (FOMA) got together recently to bring Paresh Rawal’s hit comedy Krishan vs Kanhaiya to Atlanta. Ajmeri, a well-known promoter of performing arts in Atlanta, is currently braving a serious illness. The sold-out Paresh Rawal play was staged at the Gwinnett Center to pay tribute to this man who has unscrupulously served his kin; age, gender, race and status no bar. Just the focus of honoring him, besides the acting credentials of cinestar Paresh Rawal, sold every seat in the house well before the show, to the extent that the national promoter was induced to call an encore, after the long Labor Day weekend.
Rawal’s thought provoking play with irrepressible wit and humor is about an atheist’s battle with God. Krishan (Rawal) is an atheist who runs an antique shop together with a loyal employee Vasant (Nilesh Pandya). Atheist Krishan mocks and ridicules his wife Sushila (Manish Vora) who is very devout One day an earthquake destroys his shop. The Insurance Agent, (Ankit Trivedi) visits Krishan at his home and informs him that the claim will be rejected because the loss occurred due to an “Act of God”. Krishan challenges the agent to prove that the earthquake was in fact the Act of God and if so, he would sue God for recovery of damages. He files a case against God.
In-steps the lawyer Sharmaji (Chirag Vora) along with the now nervous insurance agent. Sharmaji tells Krishan that he will not succeed in his case because God is non-existent and cannot be sued. “And even if you win, and if God does not pay your damages, are you going to incarcerate Him?” During the trial, Krishan, Sharmaji, Liladhar Swami (Saumil Daru) and Shidhdheshwar Swami (Pradeep Vengulrekar) enter into lively discussion about existence or non-existence of God. Krishan regales the audience with rib-tickling one liners accusing Liladhar Swami and Shidhdheshwar Swami of duping the gullible devotees in the name of God.
The audience enjoyed every minute of the witty and funny verbal duel between Krishan and the two swamis. As if this was not enough, Kanhaiya (Dharmendra Gohil) spiced it up more. “Who are you?” asked Krishan, and Kanhaiya replies, “I am Krishna Vasudev Yadav. I come from Gokul” “But then, why are you wearing a suit. Are you in a fancy dress competition?” “No. This is my modern outfit. My recent photograph in this dress has not been downloaded yet, so my devotees fail to recognize me”.
Krishan refuses to withdraw his case. He gets the support of media (Pooja Gupta) by using his charm and convincing talk. He threatens the insurance agent and the fake swamis that he is also going to claim damages on behalf of 550 people who have been denied on the same ground. The swamis are scared that adverse media publicity will affect their earnings so they offer one crore Rupees to Krishan as a bribe, Krishan is unmoved. The swamis call him a fool to refuse such a good offer. Krishan replies.” I know how to make more. I am a Gujarati!” In the concluding part, Krishan excels in his acting prowess in heart-tugging scenes. The ending is clever.
Paresh Rawal, the seasoned actor, effortlessly straddles celluloid and stage. In ‘Krishan V/S Kanhaiya” he commands the stage in a stellar role invoking laughter with every wisecrack, quirky accent and mannerisms. He is ably supported by the accompanying younger but accomplished Gujarati theatre actors. The story was created and written by Bhavesh Mandalia and directed by Umesh Shukla. Music has been provided by Sachin Sanghvi and amazing light effects by Santosh Zaveri. The play is an adaptation of the popular contemporary Gujarati comedy Kanjee Virrudh Kanjee.
The Atlanta event was emceed by two of the organizers; Viren Mayani and Anisa Daftari
Immediately after the brief interval, as the apt song ‘jeena isi ka naam hai’ heightened the mood, Mayani came on stage and gave a glowing introduction of Mustafa Ajmeri, saying, “The always amenable Atlantan, Ajmeri from Ahmedabad, Mustafa, as popularly known nationwide; is perhaps the most secular person one can find anywhere. He is always full of hope, smiles and a genuine interest to assist anyone, anywhere, known or not. His credence lies in the fact that literally no one will deny a request from him, as he has no personal axe to grind and more importantly because he never has ill- will towards anyone or denies help to someone seeking it. Being a Performing Arts aficionado, he is singularly credited for bringing, maintaining and continuing to enhance the cultural experience of Chicago and later of the Atlanta Indian diaspora, for more than thirty years through professional entertainment shows in the region; be it music, dances, literature, theatre and more.”
In walked Mustafa with a slow gait but with a broad smile as the audience gave him a rapturous standing ovation. The audience clapped and cheered Mustafa’s family members as they came on stage. He was presented with a floral bouquet presented to him by his granddaughter Nyla. Mustafa Ajmeri was also presented with a unique plaque from FOMA that inscribed that he is the essential element of a complex puzzle; meaning without him most of such projects will fail to achieve desired results.
In his brief remarks, Mustafa’s son-in-law; Ibrar, on behalf of his family, said, “We are all proud of dad's lifetime of work for the community and the event on Sunday was a fitting tribute,” adding that his dad was deeply touched with the community’s gesture.
“He truly had a great time and could not stop talking about it. He was nearly in tears after seeing the crowd and the beautifully made program book. Dad is extremely happy and is proud and blessed to be so loved by all his friends.”
Dr. Prakash Desai and Mrs. Tarla Daftari, other members of FOMA and both of whom have worked tirelessly towards the success of every component of this event, shared their emotions about Mustafa’s friendship in general and his fellowship with the community at large.
In closing Dr. Prakash Desai thanked the patrons, media, sponsors, volunteers, GFUSA and national sponsor Bhavna Modi. “This show proved that if we are united we can perform miracles. Many Associations represented here: Gujarati Samaj, Shakti Mandir, IACA and more are equally participative in the overwhelming success of this event.”