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Boom Shankar, a two-character rib-tickling comedy, will stage in downtown Auckland June 8-12 at the Basement Theatre.

Originally a five-minute piece in the well-received anthology show First World Problems 2.0 staged in 2019, writers Aman Bajaj and Bala Murali Shingade have now expanded Boom Shankar to an hour-long standalone show. It was staged at the NZ International Comedy Festival where it had a sold out season.

Boom Shankar tells the hilarious tale of Shankar Shinde, star graduate of BDSM or the Bomb Defusal School of Manukau (acronyms can stand for different things, you see), as he navigates his high-pressure job of defusing live bombs. Shankar’s journey explores love, life, and the importance of selecting the right type of dahi (yoghurt). He is forced to tap into all his training, unconventional coping mechanisms, divine intervention, and sheer dumb luck in an effort to make it through alive.

Speaking to The Indian Weekender about how Boom Shankar came to be, co-writer and actor Aman Bajaj said, “The five-minute snippet [in First World Problems 2.0] was extremely well received and audience members and critics alike saw the potential of it being developed as a full-length show which got us thinking of developing it further.

“Originally a monologue, we set ourselves the challenge of crafting it as a two-hander comedy play with a narrative that gave us the liberty of exploring a range of topics.”

Bajaj and Shingade have always wanted to collaborate on a show together and co-wrote and Boom Shankar. They both also play the only two roles in it. Well known theatre director and performer Ahi Karunaharan was the dramaturge and mentor who helped in the development of the show for the NZ International Comedy Festival.

Asked whether the play would appeal primarily to the Indian/South Asian sensibility Bajaj said, “As Kiwi Indian creatives, we definitely want to showcase our unique perspective and celebrate our communities, but at the same time, our show will definitely resonate with all audiences.

“Though we do have a couple of jokes that are for specific audiences, the show’s story, characters and ideas are accessible to everyone, no matter their ethnicity, age or gender. Our aim is to make sure that everyone has a good time as we can all certainly do with a laugh given the challenging times that we are living in.”

Given that Boom Shankar was extremely well received in its run at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival too, where it was described as ‘hilarious’, ‘phenomenal’, ‘heart-warming’, ‘amazing’, its second run this month gives another opportunity for theatre lovers to have their funny bone tickled with refreshingly original humour delivered by an extremely talented duo.

Actor-writer-director Bajaj has worked in theatre and on screen since starting his journey as a writer and performer for Tom Sainsbury ‘s The Foreign Monologues in 2011. His short play, Dhoti Baba, won the Best Comedy Script award at the 2015 Short + Sweet Festival in Auckland.

He next wrote ‘AI East’ directed by Tom Sainsbury which won the Emerging Artist award at the 2016 Short + Sweet Festival. His most recent writing credit was for the short play, ‘Manpreet’s Degustation Menu’ which was a finalist at the 2019 Short + Sweet Festival and was also a writer and host for the youth current affairs web series, ‘DBrief’, that was funded by Radio New Zealand for The Wireless. Aman also directed ‘Guards at Taj’ and ‘Know the Truth’ that were presented as part of the 2020 Prayas production Yatra.

Shingade has an MA in Screen Production, and is a writer, director and actor in film and theatre. Recent screen credits as a director include 800 Lunches and Perianayaki, both funded short films. He has also written and directed several pieces of short form theatre. Acting credits include a number of shows with Prayas Theatre, such as Dara, Yātrā and A Fine Balance. In 2020, Bala was one of six recipients of the Arts Foundation’s inaugural Springboard award, which recognises emerging artists with outstanding potential in their fields.

Boom Shankar runs for 5 nights from 8th-12th of June at The Basement Theatre: