Khoj – The Search | 2009


A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry has always enjoyed best-seller status in New Zealand.

If it offers an insight into parts of India few New Zealanders know, other work by Mistry inspire migrant Indians to look at themselves.

For Auckland’s Amit Ohdedar, of the Auckland Indian theatre group Prayas, its one of Mistry’s earlier works that touched a chord and led to the creation of a tribute to the Parsi writer who now lives in Canada.

“For many of us Mistry’s experiences mirror our own,” says Amit who was attracted to Mistry’s earlier work, Tales from Firozsha Baag.

Under Amit’s direction Prayas has staged two plays by other playwrights: Charandas Chor in 2005 and The Terrace in 2007.

One of Mistry’s stories related the problem of a migrant from India who moved to Canada but found the contrast in toilet experiences hard to take.

Rather than just re-tell that story, Prayas went out into Auckland’s migrant community to collect their stories and experiences.

With the rich collection of anecdotes, Amit wove them into a play that is now Khoj – The Search.

It is the story of Jamshed Balsara (played by Rahul Gandhi) who leaves Mumbai for Auckland. His grumpy father (Bhavnesh Soni) and pining mother (Rashmi Pilapitiya) miss him badly, but hope their son makes it big in New Zealand.

Like many parents of migrant children, they have only a vague notion of what New Zealand is. Contact is by mail and the occasional phone call from a public phone service in Mumbai.

Jamshed’s experience of New Zealand suffers from the sit or squat toilet problem that Mistry reveals occurs to migrants.


The play owes much to community input, both at the time Prayas was collecting stories to later, when play readings were held and later, when it went into rehearsal.

“We found a nuance here, an expression there and improvised every time we came together for rehearsals,” Kolkata born Amit says.

“The play boldly challenges both the migrant community as well as local New Zealanders regarding preconceived ideas about people and cultures.”

The topic might be serious, but Khoj – The Search comes with humour and compassion.

“Khoj raises some serious questions through humour. Jamshed’s ‘toilet issues’ are used as a metaphor for adapting to the adjustment issues in a new country,” Amit said.

This is a line from the play which sums its up: “New Zealand has embraced us with open arms, given us our home. But it is a pity that that we still feel we are outsiders.”

[tab:Cast & Crew]



Jamshed Balsara: Rahul Gandhi

Mr Homi Balsara: Bhavnesh Soni

Mrs Mehroo Balsara: Rashmi Pilapitiya

Mr Nariman Hansotia / Telephonewala: Tapas Mandal

Mr Sidhwa / Lawyer: Ujjal Ghosh

Mr Jehangir Modi: Jayesh Bateriwala

Mrs Najamai Modi: Sudeepta Vyas

Rohit Ahluwalia: Gaurav Bradoo

Percy Naoroji: Joy Chatterji

Rana Bose: Hari Menon

Aparna Chittalingam: Monica Mahendru

Mrs Chittalingam: Sangeeta Hariharan

Robert Willow: Mark Webley

Sua: Alexander Mesemo

Dr Patricia Do’Little: Patricia Hollran

Radio Voice: Michael Field, Tina Chakraborty


Peacocks: Divya Hariharan, Devipriya Sarkar, Jyoti KP Bose

Crows: Tina Chakraborty, Ratna Venkat, Shreya Gejji, Utsav Patel


Assistant Producer: Bhavnesh Soni

Assistant Director: Sananda Chatterjee

Assistance: Poorna Prakash

Make up: Padma Akula, Sayanti Chatterjee

Dancers’ Make up Design: Annamarie Dixon

Music: Sayanti Chatterjee, Moushumi Das, Amit Ohdedar

Sound Design: Nikola Borota

Light Design: Calvin Hudson

Set Design: Set Scenario

Choreography: Tina Chakraborty

Media & Publicity: Sudeepta Vyas, Nilanjan Ghoshal, Poorna Prakash

Visual Artist & Videography: Clinton Cardozo

Website: Ashwin Vasanth & Michael Field

Photography: Michael Field

Ticket Management: Rajita Patel, Nilanjan Ghoshal

Stage Manager: Sananda Chatterjee

Script: Amit Ohdedar, Sananda Chatterjee, Poorna Prakash

Dramaturge: Fiona Graham

Producer: Sudeepta Vyas

Director: Amit Ohdedar


Margaret-Mary Hollins, TAPAC

Richard Clayton, Playback Theatre

Justine-Simei Barton

James Beaumont, Auckland City

Shalini Pillai, ASB Trust

Monica Turner Asia NZ Foundation

Kiran Bajaj, Shabdam

Ravi Soni, White Rose Furniture

Benifer Irani

Clare Carmody

Sanjit Dutta

Iosefa Enari


All image credits to Michael Field

[tab:Media & Reviews]

NZ Listener Review


Media Previews


Radio New Zealand

Asian Report with Jason Moon

On the Asian Report today;”squatting or sitting!”Jason Moon delves deep into the bowels of a new play by Indian community theatre group Prayas. Download: Ogg Vorbis MP3





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