Aadhyam, the theatre initiative by the Aaditya Birla group staged ‘The Kite Runner’ recently, produced by Akvarious Production. The play adapted by Matthew Spangler’s, is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan-American novelist. Adapting a novel to stage as we know is a challenge, and when the novel to be adapted has epic proportions like The Kite Runner, the job is even more difficult. Despite thehurdles, the adaption by Matthew Spangler stays true to the original work. Actor, writer and entrepreneur Akarsh Khurana has done a wonderful job of directing this saga of friendship, betrayal, love and family.
The play unfolds by the narrative of Amir, the main protagonist of the play, who is modelled on Sutradhar. Amir uses flash-back technique to move back and forth the story line, and it is through him we are introduced to other major characters in the play.
The first act of the play is set in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan and the time frame is around mid-1970s, when the country was witnessing various political upheavals. This first act highlights the deep friendship between Amir and Hassan, two young lads. Amir’s father who he calls Baba is a wealthy aristocrat Pushtoon of Kabul whereas Hassan’s father Ali, who is their servant belongs to a low cast ‘Hazra’. The friendship between Amir and Hassan is such that they are inseparable and are always indulging in their favourite past-time, kite flying, or Amir reading aloud well-known story of Sorab and Rustom. Like Amir and Hassan, their fathers too share a deep-bond, one that goes beyond master-servant relationship.
As nothing lasts in life, so will not the idyllic world of Amir and Hassan. It is a beautiful afternoon in Kabul and skies are full of kites as kite-flying competition is underway. As per the expectations of Amir’s father, Amir wins this competition but their joys are short-lived as Hassan is raped by few young rowdy boys. Amir, a boy with no self-confidence, watches this incident, too scared to help his friend Hassan. This incident riddles Amir’s conscience with guilt, a feeling so deep that it continues to torment him throughout his life.
The second act begins in different locale and this time it is USA, land of milk and honey. Post-1979 USSR invasion of Afghanistan, Amir and his father initially move to Pakistan, only to finally land in USA in 1981. Now they are American citizens and Amir acquires a degree in Creative Writing from the University of San Jose, gets married to beautiful Soraya and later becomes a teacher. By this time Amir loses his father and he meet his father’s good friend from Kabul, Rahim who lets him into a secret of his family’s relationship with Ali and Hassan. Rahim tells Amir that Hassan is his brother who is living life in a hell in Afghanistan, now ruled by the dreaded Taliban.
Amir is once again overcome by guilt as he feels, he and his father have betrayed their land, people and are now leading a cushy life in USA. Amir now becomes desperate for redemption and decides to go back to Kabulwhere he gets to know that Hassan and his wife are killed, but their son has survived and living in some orphanage. Amir decides to take this boy to USA.
The play has some moving scenes and some top-class acting. Akash Khurana is completely at ease in his role as Amir`s father, Baba. Kumud Mishra (Ali) is somewhat wasted as his role is not meaty enough. Abhishek Saha(Hassan) and Nipun Dharmadhikari (Amir) are the main characters of the play and both do an excellent job, especially Nipun as a boy who lacks self-confidence and is ridden with guilt as he is not able to help his friend Hassan, who is raped. The stage design by Ayaz Basrai and light design by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, are distinctive and deserve special mention. The Afghani carpet motifs suspended as backdrops on stage add to the authenticity of the setting.
Whether one has read the novel or not, the play is worth watching.