Beyond black and white

A grey world A scene from “Blackbird.”

A grey world A scene from “Blackbird.”  


Theatre director Akarsh Khurana on the many layers of “Blackbird”.

Directing dad was a lot easier than expected. I did expect creative differences. But he and Shernaz being such senior actors are so very professional.

“Blackbird”, an Akvarious Production, Mumbai, staged recently at the India Habitat Centre, gives no easy answers and instead leaves an aftertaste of bitter questions. Performed by an expert cast of Akash Khurana and Shernaz Patel, this 80-minute play by David Harrower deals with that infinite world of grey. It powerfully shows that there are no easy blacks and whites.

Complex story

The young but experienced Akarsh Khurana of Akvarious Production calls it “a modern morality play”. The foreground, he explains, might be an appalling case of child sexual abuse, but a complex love story looms in the background. This play by Scottish playwright never allows the audience the luxury of judgement. Passing judgements help you sleep easy at night, this play wouldn’t allow you that. It all happens one night when a young lady walks into a middle-aged man’s office. As it unfolds it becomes clear that they were in a relationship in the past. But the hammer blow is that their relationship happened when the girl was 12-years-old and the man 40.

Khurana, actor, director and screenplay writer, explains why he chose “Blackbird”, first performed at the fifth Edinburgh Festival. He says, “I liked the text a lot. I am not looking for controversy per se. But at the base of the story is a man-woman relationship. One asks why the girl returns. Is it revenge, retribution, reconciliation – one never knows. For me as a reader it was very hard to take sides. Maybe taking sides is not the point.”

Akash Khurana, a popular star in Hindi movies since the 80’s (“Bombay”, “Sarfarosh” etc) plays the male protagonist here. He is also Akarsh’s father and the founder of Akvarious Production. While the father has done cameos in his son’s previous plays, this is the first time he dons the lead. The son reveals, “Directing dad was a lot easier than expected. I did expect creative differences. But he and Shernaz being such senior actors are so very professional. They are open to guidance. People should learn from them.”

The reunion

“Blackbird”, reveals Khurana, sees the reunion of Akash and Shernaz after 24 years. They acted together in “Diary of Anne Frank”, where Akash played her father. This long familiarity with each other translated into the absolute ease with which they played complex characters in an emotional jousting match.

While Khurana has written the screenplays for “U, Me aur Hum”, “Krrish” etc. he has never written a theatre script professionally. His father is the story writer for “Baazigar” (1993) and other popular movies. The son learnt from the father, informally ideating with him, before going on to become an apprentice and finally a professional. Khurana has most recently written “Kites” for Anurag Kashyap. He says he has never written for stage because he knows it is more difficult since the resources are limited.

Started in 2000, Akvarious, which works in English, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Hindustani, adult and children’s’ plays has a full plate today. They’ve just premiered “Don’t Look Now” and “Blackbird”. A children’s play based on an Enid Blyton’s Five Find-Outers story is also on the way.

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