Words Wal Reid/ Photos Indian Ink Theatre

“Originally, it was going to be a solo show and I was there at the right moment, they said “Actually this might be two actors” and I was like “Hello”

Fresh from their North American tour and following a sell out season at Q last year, Indian Ink’s Mrs Krishnan’s Party sets down in Auckland and Tauranga for a limited time, starring the fantastic pairing of Justin Rogers and Kalyani (Kaly) Nagarajan.

The show takes the audience into the back room of Mrs Krishnan’s dairy where garlands decorate the ceiling, music flows and Mrs Krishnan is throwing a party like no other. Food simmers on the stove, laughter abounds and strangers become friends in this joyous celebration of life, so too lurking behind the scenes is actor Justin Rogers who plays The Boarder.

Rogers graduated from Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School, his previous roles include the Prince in Into The Woods directed by Cameron Rhodes and the short film Jigsaw directed by James Ashcroft. Also noticing Rogers was Hollywood who invited the young Justin to star alongside Kiwi actor Matt Whelan as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in the Amazon Original series American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner.
“It was right out of drama school as well” he says. “It was a big learning experience, working out who everybody was. It was filmed in New Zealand before Hugh Hefner died, it was a great thing a real experience as I will have with Mrs Krishnan’s Party The Movie” (laughter)

After touring the show Matariki with the Court Theatre which performed to ten thousand kids across Canterbury he toured with Maui Me Te Ra and most recently played Dr Ropata in Shortland Street the Musical, even touring overseas with Mrs Krishnan’s Dairy had its moments.

“We had to change some key phrases that didn’t make sense” he tells. “Hey this is Mrs Krishnan’s dairy, “What are they talking about, milk?”

NZEP: Tell us about your role in the show
JR: In the show I play James, Mrs Krishnan’s boarder, a university student slash wannabe DJ slash ‘party guy’ and I’ve basically invited a lot of people into Mrs Krishnan’s room to have a party, she doesn’t know about it and the audience are part of the guests that are invited. We start the show with Mrs Krishnan asking “What are all these people doing inside my house?”

NZEP: This is the first time you’ve worked with Indian Ink Theatre Company?

JR: Yes this is the first time. I’ve done a show with them and this show has been going for a little while and we did our first season way, way back a few years at Tapac to see if it would work. It’s kind of different to Indian Ink so we had to develop it to see if it would work, then we got some international interest and we got to take it around. Kaly and I were class mates at drama school we spent three years together and now we spend a further three years together (laughter)
NZEP: So its basically yourself and Kalyani?

JR: It was based on her solo show, so after the first year of drama school we had to do a solo show and she invited Jacob Rajan. He’s one of the co founders of Indian Ink and he liked what he saw and said “Hey, let’s make something for this amazing actress” so they started working on the piece way back then. Originally, it was going to be a solo show and I was there at the right moment, they said “Actually this might be two actors” and I was like “Hello”. The cast is just the two of us and the third character part becomes the audience, people are invited to participate as much as they’re comfortable doing.

NZEP: Have people responded positively to the show?

JR: Yeah they really have. It’s crazy, I think here in New Zealand it was well received because it was a sequel to Krishnan’s dairy which was the first show that Indian ink did. Mrs Krishnan’s Party kind of lives on its own so you don’t have to have seen the first one to make sense of it. Audiences respond to it because its recognisable like the whole trope of our local dairy. We know that and we now what we buy there, we know those people so its recognisable, overseas, there’s maybe something about the Kiwi charm has helped us a bit? Also in America, they know enough about Kiwi life to buy into the reality of the situation. I think its just unique as well, there’s also a bit of live cooking which goes down quite well

NZEP: What’s your favourite part of the show?
Probably once Kaly & I get on the stage together. I’m kind of there by myself in the beginning and that can be kind of scary. I’m feeling the audience out and they’re feeling me out and then Kaly comes on and once her and I are on stage, it’s like a game of ping-pong between us and the audience. I love working with her, she’s funny, she’s awesome. It’s fun for us to play and be like “ Oh my gosh, what’s happening tonight?”

NZEP: Is this one of the most satisfying shows you’ve been involved with?

JR: Probably – because we’ve had a long go with it. You know, Kaly’s been working on a version this character since drama school and I’ve been involved for two and half years. Indian Ink picks up and puts down the show and we have some time off for a bit, then come back as we’re about to do here in Auckland and then we tour after as well. I get to meet myself again through the character. Each time you open in a new centre it’s opening night again. You can’t get past the opening night feeling, I can’t wait to tour it again.

Join the party before the company heads overseas for a tour to 15 American cities.