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.”
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
James Beaumont, Auckland City
Shalini Pillai, ASB Trust
Monica Turner Asia NZ Foundation
Kiran Bajaj, Shabdam
Ravi Soni, White Rose Furniture
All image credits to Michael Field
NZ Listener Review
Radio New Zealand