Tribute to JFK

Posted by Lakshmi Ramakrishna
November 1, 2013
John F Kennedy

DSC_1730Hyderabad will pay tribute to assassinated American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on his 50th death anniversary on Friday 22nd November. Kartaal Productions is presenting ‘Eulogy’ a play by writer and director Dr. K Shrikanth Iyengar (dr. k s i) in fond remembrance of the great leader! Ahead of the play, Channel 6 met Producer Seema Azharuddin and writer / director Dr. K Shrikanth Iyengar (dr. k s i) to know on the motivation and planning of the play. Following is the interview:

Why a play on JFK?

Seema Azharuddin: I am fond of conspiracy theories. The intrigue and enigma that surrounds conspiracies has always boggled minds and creates immeasurable possibilities and probabilities to solve. JFK’s assassination was a very un-nerving one. I was all of five-years-old then, but still can remember the chaos at home that it created and then over the years as a student of History and faced with this charming personality and the reign of ‘Camelot’ and then the assassination, I became a fan of JFK and to this day am quiet taken up with him. Came this 50th year in 2013, I felt the need to be part of the world uniting to pay tribute to the man, who I believe strongly, was on his way leading the world to a new frontier.

 Dr K.S.I: It has been a lifetime of intrigue for me…  My father’s words taught me to be what I wasn’t, and HONESTLY, I did not understand a word.  As time flew by, and as maturity filled me, unwillingly, I grew to understand the paradigm of his thought.  A slain leader whose work by word and deed promulgated peace affected the world and so was I affected. Torn by conspiracy, a life that he DID lead, lead only to peace and glory. “DAASOHAM,” in Telugu, meaning abject surrender perhaps, would be the right phrase for my affections towards JFK.  Oliver Stone with his hard hitting, JFK, in 1991, bore deeper into my creative soul, if I may, and now, I pen this down.  Filled with sheer excitement of being judged, even pre-judged, I tread, but with no fear.  GOD BLESS!

What kind of research went on before or after you did write?  And in which happened first, the research or the writing?

Seema: This question is best answered by the writer and director, Dr k.s.i. I did go back to reading ‘A thousand Days’ by Arthur Schlesinger, reviewed the famous Oliver Stone film ‘JFK’. Revisited ‘Profiles in Courage’,  Kennedy’s Pulitzer winning novel and began to read a lot of the views and reviews expressed by all kinds of people from the time of his death till when the case was opened in 1968. Of course, what lies in the vaults is believed to have files running into 3 million pages, which will only be available to the public in 2029!  If I still have the energy then, I think I would like a peek into it for sure.

Dr. K. S. I: Taken to task, if I were, I would very gladly do, and win accolades for I have learned VERBATIM enough and more through him, and off the earnest internet.  Without prejudice but with passion I have perused enough, I would say.  Close to forgetting my own name, and almost losing to ignominy, my conviction of writing a play in his EULOGY, I started to write.  More often than not and on most days than not, I WAS LOST.  Discomforting though, his very memory, as etched every so deeply into my soul, I pressed on.  Now, that all is done, writing wise that is, all I can pledge is, “I have given it my all!  Be gentle…  please…

Is it fiction or otherwise?

Seema: It’s primarily fiction and in truth being touted as a conspiracy with not one theory really proven, the assassination remains theoretically quiet fictional and at the same time there is the truthful history of the characters that lived then and so the story we play has a mix of both. The audience can look forward to a rather compelling play with a very twisted plot.

Dr. K.S.I: Very simply and being brutally honest, inspired from true lives, the-perhaps-true-lies, my gurus and a little of my own, if I may be humble…

As a writer, how much were you inspired by books, plays, movies, documentaries, etc?

Seema: Am not much of a writer yet, but do want to author a book soon. I have written some articles over the years mainly issue based, but yes, have been greatly influenced by all of the above especially autobiographies. In the case of JFK, his ‘Profiles in Courage’ is very stimulating and motivating and a must read for our young and the restless.

Dr. K. S. I: Absolutely. Oliver Stone’s “JFK” was the biggest influence.  I have tried very hard to be what I am with my work but it is you that decide, and aforesaid, BE GENTLE!

What do you want to convey through your play?

Seema: A mutual belief that we share as humans that freedom, liberty and the quest for the truth is our birthright, that a free society is only free when the truth above all else, is expressed and delivered and it is what determines man’s purpose to be led and to lead. The play harbours around the quest for the truth.

Dr K. S. I: While I ask myself the value of truth in day-to-day life, I also end up desisting it. Over the period of the years of forced, voluntary and unconscious learning, one fact arose uncontested – the QUEST FOR TRUTH…  I don’t know why but it seemed very purposeful and not very often though, I did dwell in that arena, much to failure.  But the quest presses on by reflex and that quest for THE TRUTH has bothered me more than anything but about HIS assassination and thus…  “EULOGY.”

How would your presentation suit the Indian atmosphere?  I mean, how much of it would represent America, linguistically and otherwise?

Seema: The play is in English with an all Indian cast and crew and linguistically or otherwise well suited for any audience. It maps the ideals and shared expectations of people to people of all cultures and backgrounds and is, however, based on the assassination of JFK as this year marks the 50th year of the most embroiled conspiracy of our time. While the core essaying the personality of a man, who was so admired by the world and to whom we pay tribute, the story and the plot remains intriguing and could apply to a similar character anywhere in the world. In India there is a large fan following of JFK and many are quiet taken by his charm as they were with Jackie.

Dr. K. S. I: Culturally and ‘vulturally’ we are a judgmental lot!  Maybe it’s good or bad, but I love it!  It makes us very critical and very much at the peril of losing a few good ones, we ensure that only and only the best rise to shine and receive the accolades.  Thus, safeguarded, I present this work.  Either way I am cushioned…

I give you my word that in no way would there be ‘mimicking or sham’ for the sake of Americanization…  It shall remain safe, as I would deem it and to be worthy of, under the realm of ‘English as we would know it best or better.’

What do you personally think about what happened that fateful day…  November, 22nd, 1963?

Seema: 50 years later I could come up with another theory of what happened that fateful day. Let’s not go there. For the past many months looking and reviewing pictures and film and reports, that one picture when the bullet struck his brain and he fell over and Jackie Kennedy reaching out for her husband, has been a haunting one and personally  I think, it was very, very sad.

Dr K. S. I: Disaster…  Catastrophe…  DOOM…  “We all lost a great bloke!  A worthy guy!”  What bothers me more is what happened later on.  I have not shied away from making my point in anyway more voracious and filled with veracity than ever. I am vehement than what was presented and attested in the past about the infamous assassination was WRONG. “I HAVE VOICED MYSELF WITHOUT FEAR!

Was it a conspiracy or lone crazed assassin?  Your views?

Seema: I certainly think it was a conspiracy. There was just too much involved in the gunning down of the 35th President of the United States. It has ample made up evidence as well as the lack of what should have been, by all the reasoning suggested and pointing to the Cuban, FBI, CIA, Soviets connections. Even the Mafia. The Warren Commission shut the case evidencing Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin and that was that. Quiet ridiculous, is what I believe and think that fateful day of November 22nd in 1963, was a carefully planned assassination. The ‘Why’ and ‘How’s still eludes us all. There is a bigger picture out there somewhere, undoubtedly, and in my mind, I am just many among millions waiting for history to tune into the truth of it all.

Dr.K.S.I: When one individual commits a heinous crime for selfish or crazed reasons, it is thus “THE LONE CRAZED ASSASSIN.”  When it is more than obvious that a Killing occurred by great coordination FOR GREAT REASON, which obviously means that more than one individual was involved, and SO I BELIEVE DID TRANSPIRE IN ‘HIS’ CASE, it is more than conspiracy, but TREASON!

How does this play, ‘Eulogy,’ affect you?

Seema: Well, I personally have been very intrigued by the unfinished life of JFK. I visited his grave, several times, his family home in Massachusetts, followed the handsome John Jr on his escapades, idolized the poise of Jacqueline Kennedy, have over the years quoted JFK and was quiet tickled about his life on his personal front. His living daughter Caroline was camera shy and an academic and now ambassador to Japan. 50 years is a long time to still be finding out the truth and our production of the ‘JFK –EULOGY’ takes on the re-opening of the case and who actually does it. Over the past few months, the conversations and discussions with my director led to intense affection because of the effect the conspiracy theories created when creeping up on us. The “Eulogy” will certainly have an effect on the audience and it is primarily the secret that unravels in the end of our fictional play that affected me the most. What if ‘this’ truth were to be true? I think it would have the world’s attention right away. Sorry can’t say more.

Dr. K. S. I: It is a reflection of my Father’s teachings and even very vividly, ‘MYSELF’ at work.

Are you not coming up with anything Indian?

Seema: You mean where the story has an Indian background? Yes, we are. As you know Kartaal Productions aims at promoting world literature via the medium of theater and it just so happened that the copyrights for ‘….Streetcar’ and ‘……Virginia Woolf’, both American legacies fell in my lap and two stories that have been my favorites since high school and we played it out. In between we produced a Telugu documentary , ‘Ammulu’ and co- produced a Telugu feature film, ‘April Fool’ then back to literature with ‘An Evening with Shakespeare’ in January this year and now ‘ JFK – EULOGY’ because of its importance in history 50 years later. 2014, we will bring you ‘The Last Nizam’ which the author, John Zubryscki is working on the first script for stage and I have requested Shyam Benegal to direct. Its Indian enough, however, the main character and his family were out of India for the most part. Both K.S.I and I will be acting in it, I think.

Dr. K. S. I: My hero and my GOD for a freedom fighter and a citizen of my country is and shall always be – Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagath Singh…  Next year I hope I can write and direct a play in his everlasting memory and yearning for his return.  Jai Hind!

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