Aishveryaa Nidhi: Transcending art through Theatre and Films

By Neena Badhwar

Aishveryaa Nidhi has worked in Theatre and Films for the last 25 years, and is well known to the Indian community in Australia. At the height of her career Aishveryaa decided to move to California in 2016 where she is making her mark in Hollywood, recently nominated as one in the top 24 women of America. Whenever you meet this high achiever is always telling you what she is up to, by now having worked extensively in over 80 productions worldwide. In Sydney she established ‘Abhinay School of Performing Arts’, and produced more than 60 plays besides participating in various theatre festivals, while promoting Indian culture and talent, in Australia, India and the USA.

I was personally involved as I wrote many short scripts having been trained under Alex Broun whose workshop Aish organised when four of my short plays were staged at Sydney Short+Sweet Theatre Festival. One of which Aish took to the debut of Delhi Short +Sweet festival in which she was acting as well. Aish was instrumental in starting off the first Short+Sweet Theatre festival in India, thus helping to form a bridge between India and Australia.

Not only that, Aish took part in Sydney Theatre Company’s multicultural plays, highly noted were Stefo Nantsou’s ‘Leviathan’ and ‘The Other Way’. She was also invited by Opera Australia as a coach for gestures, movement, and physicality for the lead Emma Mathews and the supporting cast of opera ‘LAKME’. Sydney’s ‘Gandhari’ Aishveryaa Nidhi turned up in Melbourne to work on the local series ‘Five Bedrooms’. Six years ago Aish landed in Los Angeles and soon became a member of the Screen Actor Guild of America and this year, she is in the 28th SAG Awards Nomination Committee.  

TIDU catches up with Aish on her journey as an actor and life as such:

Aish, please tell us about how and when you decided to follow this path in theatre and acting?

When I was growing up in India, I was actively involved in cultural events at the school and university levels.  As a child, I also learned Kathak and music. I did participate in production-based workshops by the National School of Drama. I also acted in Ranjit Kapoor’s ‘Ek Ghoda Chheh Sawar’. I am a commerce graduate and have a post-graduate diploma in Business Management and another post-graduate diploma in Tourism and Travel Management. When I was working in India, my evenings used to be at theatre rehearsals and performances at Arvind Gaur’s ASMITA Theatre. At that time, I had no idea that the acting bug would bite me so hard that I would become a full-time actor.

After moving to Auckland, I joined on-camera acting workshops and did a few commercials as well as had a co-star role in ‘Shortland Street’. Also acted in David Hare’s ‘The Racing Demon’, doing fundraising for the churches of Auckland. Then to Sydney, and to Los Angeles now. I haven’t stopped since then, I am still learning the craft and working.

When you landed in Sydney, How did you manage to transform the theatre scene and brought under your umbrella many actors, writers and directors under the aegis of Abhinay School of Performing Arts?

The transformation was an inspiring response from the theatre community of Sydney, over a period of time, through various cultural initiatives of the Abhinay School. My all-around involvement be it in acting, direction, production, translation work, involving and promoting young talent, etc. also played a role in bringing vast repertoire of talent on one platform. 

You have acted with great actors such as Stefo Nantsou and others, can you reminisce some of the Sydney experiences?
I have so many interesting memories, working with Sydney Theatre Company’s play ‘Leviathan’, adapted and directed by Stefo Nantsou based on a famous book, I was fortunate to meet and do a photo session with the then artistic directors of STC (Sydney Theatre Company), Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton. 

Your much-acclaimed play, ‘Gandhari…in search of light’ has now been staged in many countries including Sydney, a solo performance by you of a mother who lost her 100 children in the Mahabharat war?

‘Gandhari’ is very close to my heart, it is a very powerful play through the eyes Gandhari, the most tragic character of Vyasa’s Mahabharata. I have performed this play several times in Sydney and Melbourne. In India, the play was invited to be performed at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, as well as Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, North Zone Cultural Centre, Kurukshetra, West Zone Cultural Centre, Udaipur, Virsa Vihar, Amritsar, Sahitya Kala Parishad, Lucknow, and of course by Asmita Theatre, New Delhi.  ‘Gandhari’ has been performed at Hollywood Fringe Festival and also at ‘The Noise Within’ theatre, Pasadena to raise funds for the Hindu Temple, Pasadena in Los Angeles. I would love to continue performing it.

You energised Sydney scene with many workshops with well-known theatre personalities from India and local, can you tell us a bit about them?

I invited Arvind Gaur, from India to conduct a four-week-long production-based acting workshop, free for the Indian community. This workshop focused on various aspects of acting including diction, dialogue delivery, voice modulation, and body language. After the conclusion of the workshop, we produced two plays ‘Kuntiputra Karan’, based on Kunti and Karan dialogue from the great  Indian mythological epic, Mahabharata and ‘Hamare Padosi’, a comic satire in Hindi of Neil Simon’s Broadway hit ‘The Good Doctor’ based on short stories of Russian writer, Anton Chekhov. Each story depicts the complex facets of life in the play.

I also organised playwriting workshops with Alex Broun who is referred to as “the Shakespeare of short plays”.  Broun has had over 100 ten-minute plays produced in over 2000 productions in more than 40 countries.

I remember, your play ‘Quarantine’ was picked up for Top 100 being the Audience Choice and was invited to be performed in Top 100, where it was third in Audience Choice Award in Short+Sweet, Sydney 2010. I traveled to New Delhi with your play, ‘Quarantine’, directed by Arvind Gaur and performed in the inaugural Short+Sweet festival in India. It was also performed in Short+Sweet, Sydney in 2010, this time acted and directed by Stefo Nantsou, it was again third in Audience Choice.

I also organised ‘Voice Training’ workshop with Australia’s premier coach for voice, dialect, and acting, Bill Peppers who has been head of Voice at NIDA for many years. Besides Acting workshops taken by me, we also had Theatre Bootcamp with Mathivanan Rajendran of Chennai and Movement workshop by Joyraj Bhattacharjee of Kolkata.

So what’s happening in the great Hollywood and your contribution there?

While I miss Sydney the most, Los Angeles unravels a whole new set of experiences for me each and every day! At the Hollywood Fringe Festival my solo performance play ‘Gandhari…in search of light’, got wide attention among all. Even ‘Kasturba’, a solo play on Kasturba Gandhi, written and directed by Juliette Jeffers for Los Angeles Womens’ Theatre Festival. Another solo play ‘Late for School’– written by Iain Moss and directed by Juliette Jeffers for the inaugural Short+Sweet Hollywood at Stella Adler Academy of Theatre and Acting was highly appreciated. 

Playing Homeless at Stella Adler Academy of Acting, Hollywood

I have acted in approximately fifteen films here that have been to many film festivals in America and beyond. The first film I worked on in L. A. was ‘The Lost’ writer/director Neil M. Paik. producer Roberta Marie Munroe, where I played the mother of actor Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi). It led me to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild of America. The film premiered at The Hammer Museum, a popular museum located in Los Angeles on December 1, 2017.

I am involved in the community where I have been actively participating and sharing my experiences in the city that I have moved to

As a Secretary and then Vice President – Cultural Affairs of India Association of Los Angeles , I have led the cultural programs on India Independence Day and India’s Republic Day.
I am an active member in the Beverly Hills Women’s Club and Women’s Club of Hollywood. I Organized and coordinated Memorization technique workshops by Paul Berry for Beverly Hills Women’s Club and Women’s Club of Hollywood.

I also organized Diwali celebrations at the Women’s Club of Hollywood, giving them a cultural taste of India through Indian Diwali decor, welcome teeka, Henna tattoos, Indian Food and Indian stand up comedy.

As a team member and a judge for ‘Indian American Heritage Awards’ to students, and also as a  judge for Hindi elocution on Hindi Diwas with Hindi club of Illinois.

Sydney group of actors you formed under the Abhinay School of Performing Arts, what would you like to say to them. We know you created a sort of inroad into local theatre with your efforts, now many plays are entered into Short+Sweet Theatre Festival. We now have many writers, actors, directors running theatre schools here which you pioneered and introduced, Indian, shall we say multicultural angle to plays in the very white Short+Sweet? Any advice to budding artists and writers here?

At Sydney’s Short+Sweet Festival, Aishveryaa with Khushaal Vyas, Nisar Sirguroh in short play ’36 Traits of Marriage’

There is no substitute for hard work that one must remember, always. The new generation must set new high standards besides continuing and preserving the traditions which brought recognition to the Indian community in Australia. I always tried to help promote scripts written by local writers based on their experiences as NRIs. Many actors came and performed under Abhinay School which made me proud that we as Indians were being noticed in the festival. Short+Sweet festival is very dear to me and when I am not performing in it, I am involved in either judging or script assessing. I wish everyone in Sydney all the best who is involved in theatre and too happy to guide from here in Los Angeles in any way I can.

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