AK's Various Thoughts

Theatre Director Akarsh Khurana shares his views on theatre in Bombay and across India.

Suicidal during Swine Flu

As youngsters all over the country are scrambling to register for Thespo, I think it only fitting to begin with a Thespo reference / memory / quip. In 2002, when I was still a youngster, I entered my third consecutive Thespo final. After a disastrous 2001 final (fully grown, dignified adults booed us off stage), I tentatively made another attempt with a lovely original play written by Apoorva Kale (a talented friend, who abandoned us, and now happily resides in Brooklyn, New York). The play was a big success, sweeping the awards. It was called “Pigs on the Wing”. Today, it would be banned / shunned, since the title technically could mean “Swine Flu in the Air”.

So, the state was hit by this pig of a disease, and eventually along with schools, offices and multiplexes, theatres were closed. This came as a shock, since the mandate had clearly meant “crowded places”. Nonetheless, shutters came down dramatically. And the city came to a standstill on a weekend. A weekend on which we had shows. Two big ones got canceled, resulting in losses and a criminal waste of publicity (the rates of which are criminal too). However, the manager of Prithvi coolly received my call and said the Kapoor clan strongly believes in “the show must go on”. Unless of course the group chose to cancel. Now the scheduled shows were productions by us - and we have a reputation of being suicidal - and Ansh - which is led by Makrand Deshpande, who remains wonderfully unfazed under any circumstances, and run by Sanjay Dadhich, the eternally nonchalant fountain of wisdom. I believe the correct term is ‘wiseguy’. Point being, we didn’t step down. Day One was scary. Advances were sub zero. And current was a trickle. Day Two, I think Mumbaikars threw some caution to the infected wind, flocked to the only open entertainment venue, and business was better. This time the meek did not inherit the Earth.

Rumour has it that this column / section / online rant of mine is widely appreciated. At least in the Q Theatre Productions’ office. As a Good Samaritan, I lent QTP a play I liked, for them to consider doing it. They liked it, and promptly asked me to adapt it. They claimed to like my ‘work’. I got seduced into agreeing. Minutes later, owing to unforeseeable circumstances, that play couldn’t be done, a new text was chosen, new plans were charted, but somehow, I still had to adapt. I got flummoxed into agreeing. The outcome will be staged soon. Perhaps then someone out there will actually leave a comment on this blog. However, when the QTP conspiracy finally sank in, I extracted sweet revenge by emotionally blackmailing Q into acting (and dancing) in a children’s play. Some detractors claim it was a purely financial move. I can’t deny that a huge chunk of the city (especially the Southerners) did hoard tickets so they could watch his glorious return to the stage. But that was incidental. I had my vengeance. I can release photographs, but for a fee.

I ended the month of August with my customary visit as judge to Malhar. It serves as happy hunting ground for new talent. This time around, nothing revolutionary emerged. No real discovery, surprise or shock. Except when a bearded boy, for reasons best known to him, played Paris Hilton. When I recovered, I sighed, and decided to wait for Thespo. Here’s looking at you, kids.