Akarsh Khuranas newest play Blackbird comes with a caveat
When Akarsh Khurana put the caveat-Strictly for mature audiences-on the poster of his newest play,Blackbird,he wasnt worried whether this will keep a section of the audience at bay. Rather he was seeking out sensible and sensitive viewers for the tragic romance scripted by Scottish playwright David Harrower.
Blackbird is not a family entertainer. Its a very intense play that depicts a tragic romance, says Akarsh,who directs his father Akash Khurana and Shernaz Patelboth Mumbai stage veterans for the play. The 2005-play was inspired in part by the crimes of sex offender Toby Studebaker. It revolves around the meeting of a young woman Una and a middle-aged man Ray. Fifteen years ago they had an affair which culminated in a trip to a seedy hotel. There would not have been controversy had Una not been 12 at the time and Ray 40 and a family friend.
Akash thinks that the caveat needed to be on the poster as the play is more about understanding the characters and their story. However,its not the same as a strictly for adults tag, says the actor. Both Akash and his co-actor agree that the play is very intense. But knowing each other for decades helps. While doing Blackbird we actually play off each other, says Akash,who first acted with Patel in the 80s in The Diary of Anne Frank. Patel had read the play which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2005 nearly two years back. Its a very different kind of play. It grabs attention immediately, she says.
Akarsh has been toying with the idea of staging Blackbird ever since a friend gifted him the book. I wanted to cast my father and Shernaz in the play. Since their dates were not matching,I had to wait for some time, he says. Though the script poses various challenges,Akarsh admits to making his task easier by roping in two fine actors. For the actors,however,the challenge remained in building their characters and telling the story with finesse.
The play will face the audience test on Saturday and Sunday at National Centre for Performing Arts,before it travels to Prithvi Theatre later in the month. Patel hope that the audience will be receptive. But Akash,in a lighter vein,says,A play like Blackbird is not meant to work for the audience. However,it does for us.