Agam Darshi plays the exotic dancer Apsara and Munish Sharma is her blind patron Kamal in the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival production of Bombay Black. (Photo courtesy Zahida Rahemtulla)

Nanaimo’s TheatreOne opens season with Vancouver Fringe hit ‘Bombay Black’

Vancouver playwright Anosh Irani's play told from perspective of blind character

Last year Vancouver playwright Anosh Irani and theatre director and producer Rohit Chokhani were walking through the streets of Mumbai, with Irani pointing out the sites that inspired and are depicted in his 2006 Governor General’s Literary Award-nominated play Bombay Black.

Then he asked Chokhani to close his eyes.

Bombay Black tells the story of a blind man who visits an exotic dancer who is managed by her mother. Chokhani describes it as both a romantic love story and a mysterious thriller.

“For me, what’s interesting about the show is, first of all, why does a blind man want to go and see an exotic dancer?” he said, later adding, “That’s interesting that a playwright who wants to take on, in a way, the topic of male gazing, but then not let the guy who is male in the play gaze because he’s blind.”

When the two met in Mumbai, their shared hometown, Chokhani said to Irani, “So you took that eyesight away from the lead guy, but why did you not take that eyesight away from the audience members?” Irani was intrigued and from there Chokhani began working on an interpretation of Bombay Black told from the blind man’s perspective.

Last year that production debuted at the Vancouver Fringe Festival and went on to earn the Pick of the Fringe Award. From Nov. 15 to 17 the play makes its Vancouver Island debut at Malaspina Theatre as it opens TheatreOne’s 2018-19 mainstage season. The play is also part of Diwali in B.C. celebrations in Nanaimo.

Chokhani attributes the production’s success to its approach to illustrating how the world can be perceived without sight. He said audience members have the option of wearing blindfolds, some scenes are performed in the dark and others make use of exaggerated lighting and sound effects.

“We want to say, like, the blind are not really blind. They have a very different ability of seeing the world through their other parts of their senses and we explore that quite a bit,” Chokhani said.

He said Irani has been supportive of his take on the play.

“He’s the kind of playwright who comes in whenever we need him…” Chokhani said. “He’s very much on board with the idea and he loves where we’re taking it.”

WHAT’S ON … TheatreOne presents Bombay Black at Malaspina Theatre from Nov. 15 to 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for students. Available online or at 250-754-7587.


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