Anosh Irani’s hard-hitting play Bombay Black is featured at this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival, and Surrey resident Gavan Cheema says she’s glad to be part of the creative team.
The UBC grad is the assistant director, alongside director Rohit Chokhani, for the production’s run at Vancity Culture Lab from Sept. 7 to 16, as part of the festival’s Dramatic Works Series.
“We have a really strong cast and Rohit’s all about collaborative creation so it’s been going really well and everybody is getting their input in, and I think it’s going to be a strong show,” Cheema told the Now-Leader in a phone interview during rehearsals, held since July at “The Cutch” venue on Venables Street.
First staged in 2006, the Dora Mavor Award-winning Bombay Black is a love story between a blind man and a dancer. “In a seaside flat, the iron-willed Padma takes money from men so they may watch her daughter, Apsara, perform a mesmerizing dance,” notes a description of the play on Irani’s website (anoshirani.com). “Apsara’s extraordinary beauty and erotically charged dancing cast a powerful spell over her wealthy and famous clientele. One day, a mysterious blind man named Kamal visits for a private dance. Kamal is somehow linked to their past. His secret threatens to change each of their lives forever.”
With Chokhani aboard, the production marks a Canadian first for the play directed by a Mumbai-born director of Indian descent. (The city of Mumbai is formerly known as Bombay.)
“I got involved in the project by chance, actually, because I wanted to work with Rohit, who’s a strong advocate for South Asian arts in Vancouver, and that’s what the community really needs right now,” Cheema said.
Chokhani, artistic producer with South Asian Arts Society in Surrey, continues his quest to make performing arts equitable and sustainable with the launch of Project SAT (South Asian Theatre), an initiative aimed at creating a network for developing, touring, producing and presenting national and international South Asian theatre projects in Canada.
Project SAT is something Cheema very much supports.
“I want to direct because I do want to focus on creating a space for South Asian work, and diverse work – not particular just South Asian work,” she added. “I enjoy directing the most.”
Bombay Black, performed by Munish Sharma, Nimet Kanji and Agam Darshi, opens Thursday (Sept. 7) at 8:50 p.m. The play is staged six more times until Sept. 16 as part of Vancouver Fringe Festival. For details, visit vancouverfringe.com or call 604-257-0350.