Bangalore Mirror | Laughs and Truth Bombs
This play makes a comment on Muslim prejudice with a healthy dose of humour
Love, Bombs & Apples. Seems like an unlikely combination. Seriously - does a couple fall in love over bombs and then eat an apple afterwards? Or is this the story of a fruitarian fart - resulting in an unfortunate stink bomb that repulses your love?
None of the above, thankfully. It's actually the name of AKvarious Productions' latest play, which comes to Bengaluru after being performed in Mumbai. And there are no fruitarians or farts involved. Written by Hassan Abdulrazzak, (you might remember him from his first play, the 2007 success, Baghdad Wedding), Love, Bombs and Apples is a production of three 15-minute monologues by men in different situations and locations.
But through each of their different situations is one commonality - the fact of dealing with Muslim prejudice in a world polarised after 9/11. Each story, 'Love', 'Bombs' and 'Apples', (a Palestinian actor hooks up with an English girl; a Pakistani writer struggles with publishing his first novel because he comes under scrutiny for its subject - terrorism; and a young Muslim man copes with unemployment) discusses these faultlines, but without "shoving politics down anyone's throat", as director Akarsh Khurana says.
Instead, the poignant subject is discussed with a great deal of humour. Yes, there is talk of ISIS; of the enhanced security and scrutiny that surrounds Muslim employment in any foreign country and the like, but each monologue combats these perceptions by making fun of them. "It was the same case with Baghdad wedding," Khurana says of that play, which they performed in 2015. "We were worried how people would see it because it was about Iraqis wanting to leave.
But eventually, the human stories, and the complicated love triangle is what people connected with. Iraq just became a backdrop. The place doesn't matter beyond a point." And as long as the milieu is well-described, which it is, because it's a monologue, you go on a journey with these three men. "It's enjoyable, and if you're invested, it's also human because you're connected to their problem: of being Muslim," as Khurana says.
For instance, the Palestinian actor hooks up with an English woman, but doesn't have anywhere to take her for the night because he stays with family and can't go to a public place with a white girl, because it will raise 'questions'. So he takes her to a restricted area at night, because ironically, that's the safest place to go.
It "touches upon the politics in story, but is not about it," Khurana explains. Similarly, the story about the Pakistani writer coming under scrutiny for a work of fiction just because it deals with the subject of terror makes a larger statement about how our mindsets have become. The sets and props are minimal - just a chair, bench and some lighting. "Monologues are convenient in that sense because they don't need a setup. They're almost like standup in that sense," Khurana says. And in a major departure from the original, the three monologues are enacted by three separate actors, a conscious move by Khurana to "populate" the play a little more.
What does he hope the audience will take way? "An enjoyable evening, with food for thought," he says. You're laughing at things that are "clearly problems". So it's not a "flippant evening", unlike their previous production Colaba Casanova.
"That was far more frivolous. For the most part you're watching a sexual predator. And there's not necessarily any take-home that will stay with you. CB is an exaggerated character; it's difficult to find someone who is that debauched in reality." But Love, Bombs & Apples is much more topical.
Jagriti is a Performance Arts space dedicated to Theatre, Music, Dance and Comedy. Founded in 2011 by Arundhati and Jagdish Raja, the space has hosted several productions from India and around the world. A 200-seat theatre, built around a full-thrust stage, it is fully equipped to cater to both artistes and audience. The main stage is designed for intimate performances, with adjoining spaces for informal lectures and gatherings, and an attached restaurant. Jagriti is owned and operated by the not-for-profit ART Foundation, a registered charitable trust.
The Rooftop - above the main auditorium is an open-to-sky space with a staging area that can accommodate about 50 people. A raised and walled off platform can work as a perfect area for puppet theatre. The Rooftop has a restroom and a pantry.
The Terrace - alongside the auditorium, the Terrace can accommodate about 20 people as an informal gathering area.
Lumbini - extending out from the foyer, Lumbini has a stage and an open-to-sky terraced space for about 80 people.