Akash Khurana and his two sons, Akarsh and Adhaar are AKvarious - one of the most prolific theatre companies today. But they are not the only theatre people in the family. Akash’s wife Meera, who has already directed four plays under the banner, recently made her acting debut in Rage Production’s Siddhus of Upper Juhu, and Akarsh’s wife Dilshad Edibam Khurana has been working in theatre for more than a decade.
“Recently, she has also turned director with a kid’s play, but not under our banner. Both the ladies have chosen to work outside home banners because we can’t afford them,” Akarsh complains.
However, Akarsh got both of them into direction. When AKvarious had an opportunity to do a children’s play, he put Meera in command. “I was asked to do a play for Prithvi’s Summertime but was busy with other commitments. They wanted something on Enid Blyton and mom is a fan. So I thought, who better than her! For my uncle who lives in Nagpur and also runs a theatre company, asked the production house to get in touch with meas he was busy. In turn, I asked Dilshad to fill in for me and it just worked out beautifully from there,” he reveals.
His brother Adhaar began work as a forensic expert, but soon realised he was being side-lined at dinner table discussions, which are almost always served with theatre-related topics. Today he is as active as the others. “He would still love to be part of a play by not being part of it, or by ghost directing it, but when he directs he does a damn good job,” says Akash of his younger son.
Although his mother was part of an amateur theatre group, for Akash theatre was about annual days in school and activity groups in college and university. “I was always part of it and did some interesting work, but it was a hobby,” says Akash. He began taking it seriously simply because he happened to be at the right place at the right time. But he never gave up his day job.
“To be a theatre family, the first thing you need to do is to sustain the family and that was not possible without a regular job,” says Akash. “Even now, there aren’t many theatre actors who survive only by doing theatre. That big switch, however wonderful it might sound, is not realistic.”
As time went by, Akash became more and more involved with theatre, working closely with people like Satyadev Dubey and Sunil Shanbag, and the family seamlessly eased into the theatre world.
“We were starring in Dubey’s plays, all our friends were from theatre, Akarsh was literally brought up by the theatre community,” says Meera reminiscing about attending the rehearsals while pregnant, when Dubey ordered special meals for her and made sure she had a stool to put her feet up.
Although she was a teacher, and not at all interested in acting, Dubey wanted the whole family to attend rehearsals. He asked her to do costumes and she did them for Abe Bewakoof and Sambhog Se Sanyas Tak.
“When Akarsh was born, he was literally brought up by the theatre community. I was always at rehearsals. Akarsh was an easy baby. He was unusually quiet during the plays,” says Meera.
“I have absolutely zero memory of these, and I have a feeling that I was ‘unusually quiet’ because I was usually asleep!” retorts Akarsh whose first brush with acting was at the age of eight when he shared the stage with Benjamin Gilani, Naseeruddin Shah and of course, his dad. The play was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Once begun, he never stopped. Now the family has five directors, who double up as actors and they have worked in almost every permutation and combination possible.
“Although we share our views and often incorporate suggestions from one another, whoever is directing the play gets to have the last say. You can’t let your personal equations get in the way of a play. We have played a gay couple, my father and brother have romanced my wife, and a few days before I married Dilshaan, she played my daughter on stage!” says Akarsh.
“Now that sounds like a rather incestuous family to me,” guffaws Akash.
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