Bombay Showcase

The age of Akvarious

Akarsh Khurana.— Photo: Vijay BateA still from The Interview , the group’s longest running playwith 100 shows across 16 cities— Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGMENT  

t’s been 15 years since Akarsh Khurana, son of actor, screenwriter and director Akash Khurana spearheaded Akvarious Productions, and the company has much to celebrate. They’ve recently completed their 50th production, performed around 150 shows a year, and have grown to incorporate full-time actors who can travel with their troupe. No mean feat for a theatre group that wasn’t even breaking even until 2010.

To mark the occasion they will be holding a six-day long theatre festival at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu from December 15 to December 20 onwards, revisiting old favourites like the comedy Rafta Rafta and the multiple award-winning satire, The Interview, as well as showcasing original writing. Additionally the company is bringing out a miscellany of performances, music, free events, and monologues. Akarsh Khurana talks to Karishma Attari about what to expect at the festival.

How did you conceive of this six-day long festival at Prithvi?

When we completed 10 years, we didn’t even realise it. Probably because it didn’t feel as if our body of work was substantial enough. And in many ways 2010 was a turning point for Akvarious. It was from then, primarily with Siddharth Kumar’s The Interview (now our longest running play, having done 100 shows across 16 cities), that we found our voice, in a manner of speaking. It was contemporary, Indian, mostly English, and easy to relate with.

It seemed natural then that we did 28 productions in our first ten years. And 22 productions in the last five years. So when we realised that 15 years coincides with 50 productions, these milestones became too hard to ignore. Initially the idea was just to have a big bash on the anniversary that is on December 13th. But it was providence that Prithvi Theatre allotted us a week right after. So the tyrant in me decided to get the gang to work off all the booze from the party and do what they do best.

It’s a pretty impressive line-up you have here with 27 performances over six days, what led to such prolific programming?

As such, 15 shows were scheduled across six days, but it didn't feel celebratory enough. This coupled with the need to generate new content that is apt for the emerging smaller venues (like The Hive, House of Wow, and The Humming Tree in Bangalore) led to the 'fringe festival'. So all Akvarious regulars who weren't going to be busy with stuff on the Prithvi stage got pulled into stuff that will happen at Prithvi House. And suddenly it got very ambitious. If these 15 years haven't been exhausting enough, this week definitely will be.

So there won’t be just events at Prithvi theatre, you have a miscellany of performances taking place at Prithvi House as well. What will those look like?

In addition to fringe performances and an orchestra on two days (performing music from and inspired by our plays), we also have a theatre / Akvarious merchandise stall at Prithvi for the duration of the festival, thanks to Loose Ends. I've seen some of the stuff and I'm super excited. As for the ‘fringe’ I think every piece is a highlight. Not only because it's new formatting and its free but because we've tried to vary it as much as possible. Also as a tribute to one of our early big hits - All About Women - there's an evening of performances only by women called Bayan, which means 'women' in Turkish and 'statement' in the subcontinent. There's a piece by Elif Shafak in there for good measure.

People are going to be spoiled for choice. Could you highlight a few of the must-see events by your own reckoning?

The regular shows feature old favourites but also two newer shows on the weekend. Bombay Dying , which opened at the Prithvi Festival and Miss Cuckoo which opened at Centrestage NCPA, both in November. So I'm expecting some curiosity about those.

(See for the schedule. The interviewer is a freelance writer and novelist)

The company is bringing out a miscellany of performances, music, free events, and monologues

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 1:02:54 PM |

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