For Bombay Black — an award-winning play that’ll be mounted in Coquitlam this week as part of the South Asian Diwali celebrations — director Rohit Chokhani wants viewers to “see” life the same way as his blind protagonist.
Or, at least, for part of it.
Chokhani is asking guests to put on blindfolds for certain parts of the show “to understand what it’s like to be blind in Mumbai,” he said. “There are scenes in the play where we are depicting dark outs so the audience can imagine things in our mind, much as he does.”
The 2006 story by Anosh Irani, who moved from Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) to Vancouver in 1998 to pursue his writing career, is set in present-day India.
It follows Apsara, who works as an erotic dancer; her manager mother, Padma, with whom she lives; and Apsara’s blind client Kamal.
Kamal, as it turns out, was married to Apsara when he was 10 and she was three. He discloses news about her father, from whom she and her mother have been hiding, and opens new wounds of child abuse.
“It’s a really hard-hitting play,” Chokhani said. “You don’t know what’s going to come next. I think we have put a really unique interpretation on it.”
He added, “The whole story is based on a blind man who is with an exotic dancer. I found it was a very interesting premise, especially about the act of male gazing. I was born and raised in India and, when I met Anosh Irani in Bombay years ago, we spoke about that concept. What if, during certain sections of the script, we don’t let the audience gaze? We are now showing it from his perspective.”
Named the Pick of the Fringe at last year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival, Bombay Black’s four-date run at the Evergreen Cultural Centre concludes with a South Asian event on Sunday night featuring dancers and musicians — including Bharatanatyam dance artist Arno Kamolika.
The show is programmed by Chokhani, who is the also the artistic director of Diwali in B.C.
Meanwhile, next year, Chokhani will co-director the Bard on the Beach production of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, set in India during the waning days of British occupation.
• For tickets to Bombay Black and the Diwali celebrations, call the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam) at 604-927-6555 or visit evergreenculturalcentre.ca.