I am treating it as a story that is worth telling: Akarsh Khurana
When The Kite Runner released in 2003, it captivated an entire generation across the globe for it’s tale of unlikely friendship. In the novel, the two protagonists — Amir, son of a rich landlord, and Hassan, the son of his house help, become tools to paint a painful portrait of class divide in the ever-changing landscape of Afghanistan. Now, Akarsh Khurana, of A Special Bond fame, has brought the story alive on stage. The play features a stellar lineup with actors such as Abhishek Saha, Adhaar Khurana, Akash Khurana, Kumud Mishra, Lisha Bajaj, Nipun Dharmadhikari, Sarthak Kakar and Quasar Thakore Padamsee.
Akarsh admits that when he read the story, he never thought he’d adapt it for the stage some day. “I read the book very long ago. I remember seeing the film as well. I was in a bookshop in Dubai (UAE) when I saw a play script, adapted by Matthew Spangler. I was surprised when I got to know that an adaptation existed. I was curious to see how it was done. When I read it, it didn’t matter whether I had read the book or not. The adaptation’s stand-alone impact was huge. And the author had approved it. That gave me assurance. So, I don’t remember thinking that it could be a play before that,” he says.
Giving a gist about the play, Abhishek Saha, who plays Hassan in the play, says, “We follow the story of Amir Qadiri, from his childhood in Afghanistan, and then leaving the war torn country to find solace in ’90s America. It is a heart-wrenching tale of friendship, betrayal and attempting to find a way to be good again. I play the role of Hassan, Amir’s childhood friend and companion. In many ways, this companionship is the catalyst for the conflict. In the second half, I play the character of Sohrab, Hassan’s son. Both these characters are Hazaras, an oppressed tribe in Afghanistan who are heavily discriminated against.”
Akarsh’s brother, Adhaar, plays the role of Assef. “It is a story of friendship between Hassan and Amir (both from different backgrounds), set in pre-conflict Afghanistan. They drift apart due to an unfortunate incident. Assef’s entry is the day of a kite fighting tournament, and he takes things a bit too far because he thinks all Hazaras are the ‘scum of Afghanistan’. I prepared for the role by getting my inner bully out,” says Adhaar.
Apart from Adhaar, Akarsh’s father and senior actor, Akash Khurana plays an important role in the play. When asked about the equation of working with father and brother, Akarsh adds, “Fortunately, I have worked with them a lot now. We have directed and acted in plays for each other. We have a very good equation and understand each other really well. However senior my dad is, whenever we are at the rehearsals, the relationship is professional. He takes suggestions very seriously. When we worked together for the first time, there may have been a phase when we found it difficult to create a balance between our personal and professional life. But now, we use that to our advantage and ease the job because we understand each other well.”
Although, the theme of the play is serious, the rehearsals were nothing short of fun. “Working with Akarsh guarantees funny anecdotes almost always. Akarsh has a very infectious laugh as well. So, once that gets started, it’s hard to stop everyone from breaking into laughter.” While Adhaar, recollecting an anecdote, says, “There is a scene in the play where my eye is supposed to start bleeding. So, post testing the make-up, I went outside the main rehearsal space to clean up. The guy who runs the space saw my state, panicked and rushed to go
get a first aid kit. So, that was a funny moment. All the madness tends to come out backstage and in the prep, especially, when we’re doing such an intense play.”
Lastly, Akarsh hopes that the audience enjoys the play. “I feel that the play captures the essence of the story well. Of course, purists would be unhappy with everything. I am treating it as a story that is worth telling. It is a flexible take on the play. There will be people who’ll watch it without the baggage of the book. Beyond that, we have really worked hard with the performances and rehearsals. We hope that it is a satisfying experience for everyone,” he concludes.
MORE ABOUT THE PLAY:
What:The Kite Runner
Where: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
When: On August 31 and September 1, at 4pm and 7.30pm.