Khurana & Sons
With Aadyam's new production of The Kite Runner, a father-son story is being retold by a father and his sons
In a light 372 pages, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner covers a lot of ground: the fall of Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban, the father who fails his son, and the son who fails his father. At The Cuckoo Club, Bandra, a trio of father and his sons is hoping to succeed with their adaptation of The Kite Runner. Akash Khurana, who is being directed by his son Akarsh, says, "It's not about the relationship per se; it's just a great thing for an actor to be working with such an excellent director. Because I'm fussy: I have expectations and high benchmarks. That leads to my popularity as well as unpopularity. But, he fits the bill in terms of those prerequisites: sensibility, craft, handling, taking the good stuff out of me and with all the actors."
In the air-conditioned amphitheatre, the heat and dust of 1990s Kabul is being recreated with toy guns, kites and Nokia phones the size of walkie-talkies. The story, adapted by American playwright Matthew Spangler, follows Amir (Nipun Dharmadhikari), born in wealth, and Hassan (Abhishek Saha), born without, two rug rats who are chasing kites, bullies and the tail end of their childhood. Adhaar, Akarsh's brother, plays Assef, the antagonist, first in Pashtun clothing, then in Taliban fatigues. "I was told I was Assef, but now I'm playing four parts," says Adhaar. "We've done a lot of children's plays together, in which you end up playing multiple parts. So, it's now second nature to be doubling up." The Khuranas go the extra mile for each other, because the stage is their second home.
A rehearsal scene from The Kite Runner
"Dad is my go-to actor in a certain age group," says Akarsh. "Baba's (Amir's father) character does a lot of the heavy lifting in the play, at least in the first 60 per cent. So, that was quite clear for me." There's another reason he makes a beeline for Akash. "The old guard—for the lack of a better term—is infinitely more professional than the younger lot. The level of homework that dad brings to the table is unheard of or unseen today. One of the first plays I directed had a really young cast, with dad and Benjamin Gilani. And honestly, you would expect them to be the most confident and casual, because they've done it all their lives. But, till our 50th show, Uncle Ben used to be in the wings with his script, going over his notes. With dad, direction is at most a nip and a tuck." With Adhaar, it's a bumpier ride. "In the early days, there would be friction," says Akarsh. "But now, we're older, mellower, we've found our own personalities, so there is immense trust. With him, I don't need to sugarcoat stuff. If another actor is doing a terrible job, I'll say, 'Let's try it this way.' But, with him, I'll say it s**ks. He'll get upset, but he will work on it. It's more efficient."
Acting notes aside, the family is on the same page where the play is concerned. "It's a modern epic," says Akash. "But, why the novel works for me is not just its political coverage and document of history in Afghanistan, [but because] there is a humaneness to the story. I do adaptations myself, and modesty or immodesty apart, I hold this adaptation in very high esteem." Akarsh adds, "There is a certain reverence that Matthew Spangler had for the novel, so he made sure he's touched upon all these elements: the political climate, the father-and-son relationship, the all-pervading sense of guilt that drives the play. Amir becomes the perfect vessel for that. Of course, it's a task when you're up against such kind of love for the novel. But, it's something I've tried to keep out in terms of pressure in the rehearsal room. For me, it has to be reminiscent and do enough justice to the novel, but it also has to entertain an entirely new, unaware audience that may want to read the book afterwards."
When: August 31 and September 1; 4 PM & 7.30 PM
Where: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, NCPA Marg
Entry: Rs 300 – Rs 1,250
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