Skin in the Game: Not-a-review of My Heart Goes Thadak Thadak

Saraid de Silva Cameron praises Ahi Karunaharan's My Heart Goes Thadak Thadak, the first South Asian play of its kind at Silo Theatre.

Posted on
27.11.19

Saraid Cameron praises Ahi Karunaharan's My Heart Goes Thadak Thadak, the first play of its kind at Silo Theatre.

My Heart Goes Thadak Thadak, written and directed by Ahi Karunaharan, takes place on a film set – the director has died halfway through the shoot and his two children are trying to take over, thinking they can co-direct the film 50/50. This is the first show written and directed by a South Asian person with an entirely South Asian cast that Silo Theatre has ever produced.

This absolutely isn’t a review because I have way too much skin in the game. As South Asian and an actor, I was never going to see this show objectively, but with my whole chest puffed out proudly (like I have anything to do with it) any time the mostly Pākehā crowd laughed at a chapati joke. But since this is some kind of a response to a piece of theatre, I will lovingly flag my favourite bits:

Rashmi Pilapitiya entering the stage in the second half in a beautifully designed purple silk cowgirl number; Shaan Kesha getting his shirt off for no discernible reason and never once mentioning it; Mustaq Missouri doing a ‘South Asian with a South Asian accent trying to do an American accent’ and failing so delightfully the whole theatre was in fits; Mayen Mehta’s ridiculous melodrama moment all the actors in the audience knowingly giggled at like it was for them and them alone; and theatre mainstage newcomer Sanaya Doctor strutting around the stage wearing all the confidence she deserves and zero apology.

Honestly, as a South Asian watching this, I did so with my heart going thadak thadak at pretty much the same pace as the cast’s. It’s hard to fully stress how amazing and unusual it is to see this many people like me onstage in a space as heavily dominated by European stories and voices as Auckland theatre is. I swear I was racking up every louder-than-usual laugh or captivated silence in the audience like a little tally in my head, weighing it against audience responses to other shows and gauging whether this might mean they’re going to let us in again.

Thadak Thadak has little Easter eggs for South Asians, theatre goers, and movie buffs alike. The melodrama moment I mentioned – and another brilliant dig about actors having zero practical skills – really tickling the opening night crowd. There’s a super satisfying argument between the characters about white actors playing different Asian roles – satisfying because the characters onstage all have different opinions on it, and because it gets brought up in the faces of many who might not have ever had to think about it. Personally, I was shown The Party at school when I was 15, as an example of brilliant comedy. And not a single person or teacher mentioned brownface.

The play really lights up when it takes the piss out of Americans and Westerns. This was a moment when the whole cast onstage got to play and show their range in front of probably a fair few casting directors, writers and producers, who often wouldn’t consider them for roles that don’t have Indian accents. Meaning that most of these actors don’t ever get to audition withOUT putting on an accent they might never have had.

Please let this be just the beginning. South Asian performers and creatives have shown you time and time again that we know ourselves, and we know how to make good work. It’s time for us to take the reins and ride this shit ‘til the wheels literally fall off. 

THIS is the difference when people are in charge of narratives featuring their own communities: a whole new landscape opens up, and the possibilities are endless. Two South Asian men openly flirting onstage; a South Asian woman over the age of 30 getting to wear something straight-up sexy; the actors clearly having fun tearing apart a genre they were never allowed into in the first place. 

Jesus fucking Christ is it refreshing. Because this isn’t a review, I get to (and am going to) say whatever I want to end this: 

Please let this be just the beginning. South Asian performers and creatives have shown you time and time again that we know ourselves, and we know how to make good work. It’s time for us to take the reins and ride this shit ‘til the wheels literally fall off. 


 My Heart Goes Thadak Thadak runs from 21 November – 14 December 2019 at Q Theatre Loft. Tickets available here.