Nimmi² + D’Lo = Awesome

A week and change ago I blogged about the awesome Nimmi Harasgama and her invented auntie: netta, a dame with a mouth blunt enough to make even your amma’s honesty look as soft as rasmalai.

Speaking of Amma, one of the videos I linked to in that post included part of netta’s collaboration with D’Lo, who referenced an “Amma” character. Herewith, a few more of those joint sketches, including appearances by Amma herself… and if the tickets haven’t all gone yet and you are in New York, then, you lucky reader, you can get a ticket and see D’Lo live tonight at D’FunQT : A BIG D’Lo SHOW. (You can pronounce it “defunct.” Did I mention TONIGHT? It’s part of Dixon Place’s 2010 HOT Festival.) Wish I could go! I met D’Lo a few years ago through mutual friends, and… what an actor! what a mimic! what a riot!

The show is described as “a stand-up story show with tales from the QT side mixed in with a Sri L.Ankan twist. D’Lo the artist explores topics relating to South Asia, transgender social justice, hip-hop culture, loneliness, and the resilience of the human spirit.” I’m struck by the mention of loneliness; one of the most touching things in the videos I’m linking below is the genuine sweetness of D’Lo’s attempt to alleviate auntie netta’s loneliness.

Here’s some more D’Lo / Nimmi stuff, and then, below the fold (can I say that on a blog?), Nimmi answers questions about a few things, including their collaboration.

—–Nimmi on netta’s live show, her career, and collaborating with D’Lo—–(edited e-mail conversation)

VVG: How did the show go? What did it mean to transition this character from these brief video sketches to a much longer performance on stage? What were the challenges?

NH: The show actually went well! We had full houses for both performances. ( I had to do two shows in one night as that was the only day off I had from the theatre tour I was part of at the same time). The idea of auntie netta on stage came from the artistic director of Tamasha theatre company, Kristine Landon-Smith. She and her team had enjoyed the sketches and felt their could be a future for her on stage. They were have a new writing event last December and asked me to submit a piece for this. So to cut a long story short, I am rambling, no? I performed an excerpt of the piece at the Hampstead Theatre and from there Tamasha in collaboration with the Battersea Arts Centre produced the show that went on in May.

The character of auntie netta has stayed the same, but to create the intensity of the 3-minute sketches in a 30-minute show would have left me a heap on the floor and also I don’t think that style would have worked for the stage. She is still a mad hatter, but I think a more real, believable person! I think after working with the director, Amit Sharma, what we wanted was a more human, real auntie netta. And what I wanted to achieve from the script was not just a bunch of comedy gags, but rather to use this opportunity to express issues that have been of great interest to me since coming to London in the past 2 years. Apart from performing I also have been working in the area of theatre development and when I first got here I worked with young adult refugees through Pan Centre for intercutlural arts. It was a real learning curve for me as well as them, hearing their stories of seeking asylum here in the UK and the difficulties etc and I think this is where my inspiration came from to write a piece about a little old auntie who has to seek asylum and her journey. One of the biggest challenges was that I still wanted to keep her funny and mad and at the same time have her tell her story. I think it worked, people laughed and cried together with her, which as a performer was a pretty special experience.

VVG: Can you talk about the experience of being on stage as opposed to making films? With Netta, how much of the production have you personally been doing? How did this change, or not, for the stage?

NH: Both the medium of film and theatre are amazing:) My background was the theatre starting from when I was a shy retiring 6-year-old who didn’t talk much, so my mum sent me to ‘Aunty Nalini’s drama club’ down Kynsey Terrace in Sri Lanka…I loved that so much, being able to jump into various characters etc. And from then when I moved to the UK I became a member of the National Youth Theatre…. On stage it is live in the moment…. in this last tour I did of a new British Asian play by Rani Moorthy, a Handful of Henna, [I learned] that when you do a 5-month-tour the performance changes, evolves, and also can depend on the audience too. It is a different experience in film and I love it equally if not more…the challenge of shooting out of sequence, the long hours of waiting around and preparing for the role is pretty similiar; it is just different in the execution of it.

For the sketches it has been pretty much homegrown and with the theatre piece I have had a lot of support from Tamasha and Battersea Arts Centre gave me an ‘actor/writer residency’ where I was able to develop my piece in my own space.

VVG: Can you tell us a little bit about your collaboration with D’Lo?

NH: First of all D’Lo is my hero! The learning experience was phenomenal and as a performer D’Lo is a hugely giving human being! I would love to get the chance to do more work with D’Lo, but now with being like super-famous and doing all the red carpets etc, not sure whether D’Lo will have time for little auntie netta!

VVG: What’s next for netta?

NH:Well, a comedy producer came to see auntie netta, Holiday for Asylum and invited me to compete in this competition called Funny Women…so auntie netta forayed into her first stand-up gig last week and lets see where that takes her. But I am also working on a small idea for a tv show and hoping and praying that will take off:

Got interviewed about competition.

VVG: [What's next] for you?

NH: For me in the comedy side of thingsI have so many characters waiting to jump out and perform I would love a platform to do a series of sketches. But otherwise there are few films in the pipeline :)

32 thoughts on “Nimmi² + D’Lo = Awesome

  1. Netta has potential in a Larry David Curb Your ENthusiasm kind of way. But first, we must get past her Fran Drescher level annoying voice. With a little seasoning, she might get better.

    D Lo: i just dont get the appeal. I looked at a couple of clips of her/him and am not impressed.

    So if she is a selfproclaimed supergay person, but then thinks she is male, does she now think of herself as a straight male like Cher’s humongous kid? She obviously hasn’t taken any male hormones yet as her voice is still female sounding. Whatever her identity is, she just doesn’t seem that talented.

  2. I have encountered a wildly disproportionate # of FTM transexuals amongst the Sri Lankan diaspora. Is this part of the traditional culture (like ladyboys in Thailand), some result of the war, or what? Thanks for providing a forum where I can ask–my Sri Lankan friends are uncomfortable with the question (but don’t deny the issue).

  3. geez, if I knew DLo posted here, I would have been a little bit more diplomatic in my assessment of her talent. Being honest is one thing. Being upfront blunt can be rude. That is not my intention if she is checking out these pages.

  4. @pravin,

    this is part of that ‘transparency’ deal that Zuckerberg tried to pass off as his own original thinking–all insults, snark and embarrassing fangirl/boy moments are available for all to see.

    D’Lo, as I found after MINIMAL research, has a body of work completely outside of these brief clips. Go check it out–if you live in the right area, you might even get to see it live.

    all of us with the freak flag poking out from behind the collar/ear-hair/banyan-straps are at some point drawn to creative pursuits. some of us take it all the way. don’t judge before you see the whole package.

    In my days of checking Kottu posts as the aggregator was updated, i found very little in the way of journals about LGBT life in SL. There was a lot of passive-aggressive gay-bashing but that tends to be the way most non-serious boards operate.

  5. nandalal, when i get time, I will check it out. I just saw the clips posted here and one of her clips on Myspace where she plays her mom in a wig(at least I think that’s her). I found the acting kind of similar to niche cinema (in its infancy)from the 90s (indie gay movies like Bar Girls, Incredible Adventures or some of the Desi American movies where the humor was a little broad). Maybe her calling is writing opinion pieces more than comedy. At least, from what I saw.

    As far as netta, she shows flashes of talent. But maybe she needs a better ensemble to play off of to get the timing better. The lady in the saree really brings the level of the skits down.

  6. I love you all for even witnessing our work.

    Well, I had a packed/sold out house, again, last night in New York. People were dying of laughter…again. People said that they were moved…again. Already comments have been made that my show was political, humorous, subversive, satirical, deep and vulnerable (not my words)…again. I flew back to LA for the 2nd weekend of a 5 weekend run of Cherrie Moraga’s new play. I am feeling love from the universe for being appreciated by so many people for the work I do.

    Pravin, I invite you to see me live. I also invite you to stop sounding like that kind of person who LOOKS for something to hate on instead of celebrating the nuances that come with life. Please guide me to your work, I would like to witness and celebrate you – because right now, I would describe you as an academic-type person who thinks his comments on people’s blogs should also be treated like dissertations in which one has to footnote or provide evidence for his commentary.

    BTW, I do go my male pronouns. Handle the nuances of gender gently, Pravin. Break out of your mold of seeing things in binaries. There is a grey space that should be revered and respected if we really are being radical in our push for changing mind frames in order to change the world – however slowly we might go.

    Your comments don’t make change in this world. Nor does it affect the artists you bash – because, quite frankly, we know our place in this world and are providing the comic relief for a lot more people who walk with love, who find this world hard to deal with because of haters. I love being part of a community called “comedians” because we offer people a moment of reprieve, an exhale in peace and a chance to laugh and celebrate our contradictory selves in a safe place. God bless you Pravin, please tell me that you are loved by someone, Truly loved. And that your comments don’t reflect the type of person you really are. Please tell me that your loved one sees through, straight through your heart and challenges you to be that beautiful self all the time. And please tell me that you are open to creating more love in this world than hate. Because, as “diplomatic” as you are trying to be, it still comes of as assholic. Again, your comments don’t make change in this world.

    And to everyone else, I certainly hope you see an artists’ full spectrum of work before judging someone off some quickly-put-together-for-the-love-and-fun-of it youtube videos. Sugi, thank you for celebrating Sri Lankan artists who are politically intelligent, yet know when to cut loose to do some comedic videos on our diaspora. N. Rasiah, I thank you:)

  7. D Lo, I am happy for you if there are others who get your work. While I have no problem with alternative lifestyles, I admit I am a little confused on how to handle transgendered related issues. I am still close minded on those who undergo sex change operations which is no surprise to you judging by my negative comment on Chaz Bono. But I am not that close minded with transgendered people who dont get an operation because whatever one feels, one feels.

    As far as my comments about your performances, it has nothing to with anyone’s orientation. If Chaz Bono miraculously gets the talent to become the next Chris Farley, I wont have a problem giving him/her his due. I made a much harsher comment about the seemingly straight lady in the saree. If a clip is out there for public view, we tend to make comments. Maybe your performance translates better to a live audience where the informal style is conveyed better and more of a community self-affirmation atmosphere exists. My loss. Your audience’s gain. I honestly wish you luck and maybe you can use the negative vibes you get from people like me on these blogs as your fodder in your next act.

    And yes, I can be grumpy sometimes. But it does not prevent me from making friends of all types. Whatever negativity that is contained in a comment I type stays there in the comment and doesn’t affect how I interact with someone. Seriously, good luck in whatever you pursue. Showbiz is tough, and it takes guts to do whatever you have to do even if some people like me may not appreciate it. I know I wish I actually made an indie movie, regardless of how bad it was, when I was in my 20s. I was too busy trying to come up with the perfect script and stuck to safer pursuits.

  8. wait, wait. isn’t the “seemingly straight lady in the saree” pravin dislikes just d’lo in drag?

  9. i second the positive reviews of the show yesterday. the material was pretty varied and well-paced.

  10. @D’Lo: As usual, you are a class act in all mediums: live, video, BLOG COMMENT. Thank you. I wish I could have been there last night to see you myself.

    @Pravin: As Nandalal noted, it’s the Internet; I’m not sure why you would think that D’Lo—or anyone!—wouldn’t be able to read what you wrote. You don’t have to know everything. Who does? But if you are “confused,” a better stance would be to challenge yourself to think differently and ask respectful questions, rather than making assumptions and thoughtless (and yes, rude) comments. And they were rude and thoughtless whether D’Lo saw them or not! If you want a good example of how to ask a tough question, you need only to look at SafeSpace, who had a query and posed it without being cavalier or disrespectful to anyone.

    The Internet feels like a series of disembodied voices sometimes—it probably wouldn’t hurt any of us to remember that actual people (with feelings!) who also exist (in real life!) are reading what we write on the Internet. Anonymity gives some people the freedom to say really important, crucial things in a safe way. Why abuse that same tool to give ourselves the “freedom” to say things that are cruel and/or insensitive and/or insubstantial? That we wouldn’t say with our names and faces attached, or in real life? I find the idea that this negative blog commentary doesn’t affect your other interactions with people dubious: how could this have no desensitizing effect on character and how you treat other people generally? Go ahead, be critical of art if you want—but that’s not the same thing as being judgmental. Someone MADE this! That’s actually pretty freaking cool. That is something on the good side of the Force. Some people think reviewing is about deciding whether something is good or bad. But actually, if that’s all the conversation contains, all the meat on its bones, that’s pretty uninteresting. Art is an attempt to connect with other people. Asking for a good-faith effort to be met halfway seems fair enough.

    @SafeSpace: I’m glad you feel that this is a safe space! That was actually one of the most heartening things I’ve seen in awhile. But I have no idea… I’m also not sure what disproportionate is. Considering the challenges that transgendered members of various communities (including South Asian ones) face, do we even know what an proportionate number would be? Perhaps someone else can address this more eloquently?

    @Boris, you are right: D’Lo is playing the character of Amma, which I referenced in the post. Glad you enjoyed the show. I’ve always enjoyed seeing D’Lo perform live.

    Thanks to those of you whose comments reflect consideration for the bloggers on this site, the people and communities they write about, and the other readers on these threads.

  11. I personally dont see my comments as anything different from people commenting on the singing talent of Britney Spears on other blogs. If one is going to perform in the arts, one is going to have to face more criticism than normal. People have made comments on MIA and others on this blog. What’s different about this? Now, the only regret I expressed is I didn’t realize DLO was an active reader of this blog.

    If it was merely a case of DLo googling her name and finding my comment by accident, it wouldn’t have bothered me to put a negative comment like the initial one.

    It’s like you go to a friend’s party, one of the friends is a mediocre cook, you do not say it to their face. It doesn’t mean you won’t mention it to someone else. I like MIA. But let’s say I didn’t like MIA and put a negative comment about her music on a blog item dedicated to her. It does make a difference in the tone I adopt if I were to know she is part of the regular readership of sepiamutiny.

    And like I said, before, my comment on the clips level of funniness had NOTHING to do with D Lo’s orientation or self identification of her gender.

  12. pravin,

    i assume you don’t earn a living by criticizing art. there’s still a healthy debate about what exactly constitutes art criticism–what you wrote had nothing to do with authenticity, method, context, content or medium. That, as i’m sure you will disagree, constitutes something that is not art criticism.

    i have criticized MIA and many others in the past–but i reference exactly what ticks me off and it usually relates to a purported agenda, ideology, attempt at authenticity or whatever. D’lo and VV were overly diplomatic in responding to you. perhaps that was a mistake.

    your comment summarized: i don’t find it funny. Learn to be brief. It will conceal your ignorance.

  13. Nandalal Rasiah, It wasnt meant to be funny. And this is not some serious arts blog for me to write a dissertation on what annoyed me about the performance.. Being thin skinned doesnt serve someone well in the entertainment world. MIA is very talented and she doesn’t escape criticism.

  14. @N. Rasiah – diplomacy is a great word. How it relates to justice is even better.

    @Pravin – I dare you to create a beautiful paragraph on what is is to be diplomatic, offer justice, and imagine a new world where we can all gently and lovingly critique one another, no matter how well we know them.

    Pravin, it’s ok if you comment on my funniness or lack thereof. I don’t like your artistry/tact, or lack thereof, of your blog comments. We are entitled to opinions, it is all good. I, again, invite you to a live show. With love, this invitation is put out there. Again, not to sway you in your opinion on my creativity (or lack thereof), but to just feel love.

    I agree with Sugi on her comments to you, but understand you don’t see her opinions jiving with whatever gains you get from posting your own comments. Again, it is all good. Just be aware that change-makers will challenge you on your judgments, as proven in this string of responses to responses.

    On another note, I implore you to listen first and instead of being defensive. Use male pronouns, as stated in my previous response to your blog comment, when referring to me – mostly as a way to be an ally and educate people in the larger community about gender being an expansive term that encompasses the grey. I also point out that you, in your respect for my gender or sexual orientation, could be sensitive to the fact that, whether I had surgeries or not, (or whether anyone had surgeries or not) I define myself under the transgender umbrella.

    On a side note, being transgender doesn’t mean that I define myself by my sexual orientation. Could I not be a transexual male and desire someone with your gender? What if I wanted to go out on a date with you? Assuming, of course, that you are male and thus the object of my desire. And if we were going out on a date, we can talk about our love for MIA despite the fact that we might be coming from different perspectives on how we love her.

    You can still make that indie movie, Pravin. It is never too late to do anything your heart desires. It does not need to be true: “Those who can’t create something artistic, spend time commenting on blogs instead.”

    Lastly, I was recently enlightened to this fact: We are most triggered by that which we find affinity with. Are you also someone who feels like he is not fully seen for who he feels he is? If so, I understand you so much more now. It is ok. Open your heart, the world is waiting to love on you something fierce.

    Lots of love, D’Lo

  15. Pravin is right, guys. If you are an entertainer in the public eye you take criticism – it is part of the job. The fact that you all expect everyone to like someone just because you have introduced them doesn’t make sense. Just take the criticism and be strong enough to deal with it.

  16. I will say this once.

    Some comments have been made on this thread about art, and also about transgender identities.

    Comments that are homophobic or disrespectful of transgender identities will be deleted.

    Discussions of the art continue to be welcome. If you are unsure about the appropriateness of your comment, please see the guidelines above the comment box.

  17. If a reader of the blog was not impressed it is fine for him or her to say so, right? Why must people rush to the defence of the “wounded”? Having said that it is good to be passionate about opinions, and others’s opinions about one’s opinion; and others; opinions about others’ opinions about one’s opinion. That’s what makes a critical comment so crutial to a post for- it gives entertainment along with a dash of negativity, easily hurt feelings, friends coming to the defence. It’s like living high school online.

  18. Who’s feelings were hurt? I’m sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings:)

    Nobody is talking about hurt feelings…sheesh, come off it, come off it.

    On another note, it’s ok Pravin aka Come off It aka Just a Girl There are special ways to see who posts. And I’m done…

  19. It is high school indeed. A passing unpersonal remark at a kid ‘s song in her turf was hunted down by the kid and some friends. It’s fine D’Lo or whatever but be more fair to the readership. And don’t play mindgames with them that say “oh, i can tell who posted.” That’s abusing your privilege to post in such a wonderful forum besides being a quick lie. It’s good enough you got a plug here at Sepia- now machine-gun every harmless person who is not enthralled. Don’t expect this to convert into a shrine. I personally did like your role. What is amusing is how a minor “i was not impressed” sort of comment which is not even a heckle elicits reactions and from you who is an artist. As if an evolved audience such as Sepia’s spends valuable time at this website yet cannot afford to voice opinions without being e-bullied or e-humiliated by you into a forced fanship. I’m not planning to check back on this thread and I don’t mean to waste anyone’s time including yours any more on this.

  20. “If a reader of the blog was not impressed it is fine for him or her to say so, right?”

    Yes, as I previously said, discussions of the art = fine. If you want an example, look at #6, to whom I have not responded.

  21. “evolved audience such as Sepia’s”

    HA. most of the people on this site are a buncha pompous prats who think they’re smart & important – they ain’t

    @Just a girl – i bet you didn’t have very many friends in high school did you?

  22. DLo, I understand you are touchy about my comments. But where do you come off saying come off it and just a girl are my other aliases? Back it up especially when you laughably say that there are special ways to see if that’s done. What’s stopping you? Ask VVG to check the ip addresses with the help of sepia tech support. I have been commenting on this blog for a couple of years. I have been involved in many usenet flame wars since the early 90s using my full name before usenet became less used with the WWW gaining more usage and usenet getting spammed on an increasing basis. I Once you are veteran of that environment, a fricking cultural blog is easy to deal with in terms of negative comments. I use my real first name here. If you want, I can give tech support my full name in a private email. I can handle any backlash my comments generate. I don’t need to make up fake identities.

    If i was expressing any quasi regrets earlier in the thread, it is only because I don’t like to be rude to someone who frequents the same places I go to especially when my intiial comment was kind of flippant. I wouldn’t have cared if you googled your name and found my comment by accident. That’s the nature of the business.

  23. @Pravin – get a life: “veteran of that environment”? gimme a break… but this whole blog or whatever you call it IS stupid, all blogs are stupid – no one give two cents what any of you silly people think

  24. It’s been several weeks so I hope that chandare & jyotsana have gotten over their constipation in the meantime.