FPJ Exclusive: Theatre Artist Mahek's Ascend From Kamathipura To Broadway

FPJ Exclusive: Theatre Artist Mahek's Ascend From Kamathipura To Broadway

Born in the streets of Kamathipura, Mahek Das has turned out to be the first person from the red light areas of India to perform in a Broadway musical.

Dhairya GajaraUpdated: Friday, February 23, 2024, 12:44 AM IST
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It is often said that once you enter Kamathipura you can never exit it, but this young girl who was born in the infamous streets of Kamathipura hasn’t just succeeded in getting out of it, but has reached all the way to the Broadway theatre. Born in the streets of Kamathipura, Mahek Das has turned out to be the first person from the red light areas of India to perform in a Broadway musical.

From the bylanes of Kamathipura to the renowned Broadway, Mahek who is now studying theatre in the United States of America, was one of the performers in the musical ‘Children of Eden’. The musical play was a part of the Broadway series of Manhattan Concert Productions which was performed at the David Geffen Hall in the Lincoln Center Theatre on Sunday.

With Tony Yazback as director and choreographer and Kimberly Grigsby as the music director, the cast included Norm Lewis, Nikki Renee Daniels, Auli'i Cravalho, Jordan Fisher among others. The performance was accompanied by a full student chorus of more than 200 performers and the 30+ piece New York City Chamber Orchestra served the auditory and visual experience. Mahek was one of the performers in the ensemble who performed at the play.

Mahek, who was born to a sex worker in the largest red light area of Mumbai- Kamathipura, had lost her mother to HIV and Tuberculosis at the age of just 10 years. Living with an abusive step-father, her elder sister had to run away from the house and Mahek followed her. Both the sisters joined Kranti, a non-government organisation working towards empowering girls from India's red-light areas to become agents of social change. At Kranti Mahek was raised by the co-founders Bani Das and Robin Chaurasia.

Mehek was a bright student and excelled in academics. Therefore, after completing her studies till Class 7 in Karnataka and Mumbai, she received a scholarship to join one of the most prestigious boarding schools in India- the Wynberg Allen School in Mussoorie. Since her childhood, she was attracted towards theatre as she would perform with the NGO Kranti at various places. One such play ‘Laal Batti Express’ about sexual abuse convinced her to study and pursue theatre as a career.

Robin Chaurasia, Co-founder of Kranti, said, “Mehek has been one of the most brilliant kids at Kranti. Even during her school days, Mehek would be with us for around four months of the year to perform theatre in different countries around the world. When she told us about her wish to pursue theatre in the US, it was a newer academic discipline for us but we started looking for a good university where she could learn and get opportunities to excel in her career.”

Mehek received a scholarship to join Salve Regina University in Rhodes Island and started pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts. As a part of the course, she participated in the musical Children of Eden. At the same time, the Manhattan Concert Productions was looking for actors and singers to cast in its Children of Eden musical for its Broadway series. Many students from the university were selected and Mahek was one of the 400 people to perform the Broadway musical.

Sharing her experience with The Free Press Journal, Mahek said, “I loved the opportunity to be at Broadway. Coming from a survivor’s family, it feels strong to be there but I still miss performing with my Kranti girls. If in future I have to choose from performing on Broadway and performing for a marginalised community, I will definitely choose the latter.”

Bani Das, co-founder of Kranti and Mehek’s guardian, said, “Since Mehek lost her biological mother, I have been a mother to her. It is very overwhelming as I couldn’t join my daughter on her big day but weI always make sure to keep her motivated through video calls. We are happy that she is doing well in her career.”

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