Fond Indian memories feed Anosh Irani's My Granny the Goldfish

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      As a writer, Anosh Irani balances the demands of fiction with those of the playwright’s art. But in his personal life, he’s engaged in a different balancing act: preserving his memories of his family in India while negotiating day-to-day life in multicultural Canada. Trying to separate these strands would be fruitless, however, for they all feed into who he is—and what he does.

      Consider his new play, My Granny the Goldfish, for instance. It’s set in Mumbai and Vancouver; tellingly, Irani grew up in the Indian metropolis but now lives here. And of the two characters in the play, one is based on the playwright’s real-life grandmother.

      “She loved to drink and dance,” Irani recalls fondly, on the line from his home. “At parties or weddings, she’d have a couple of shots of whisky and then hit the floor.”¦I think she was a very strong influence in my life, just how she handled hardship and how she almost laughed in the face of everything.”

      The other character is a young Indian man who’s come to Vancouver to study—much as Irani himself did, having graduated from UBC’s creative-writing program in 2002. But the playwright cautions that not everything in the play actually happened.

      “I’ll say it’s the most personal play I’ve written, and it will be the same with my new novel [Dahanu Road]; it’s definitely the most personal thing that I’ve written so far,” he allows. “But autobiography? It’s dangerous to call things that, for me, because I just use certain things as starting points, as inspiration. And then you have to leave what happened behind, and let your imagination take over.”

      That Irani has a fertile mind is evident from his output: since 2003, he’s published three novels and had two plays, The Matka King and Bombay Black, produced. Both made their debut at the Arts Club, as will My Granny the Goldfish, which runs at the newly revamped Revue Stage until May 15.

      The prolific author credits Arts Club artistic managing director Bill Millerd with giving him his start in theatre. The veteran impresario hired Irani as a summer intern a decade ago, and the two gradually turned from discussing others’ scripts to the idea of the young author doing some writing of his own.

      “He showed me one of his short stories,” Millerd recalls in a separate telephone conversation. “It had characters that were fascinating and stories that were interesting, and it was set in Bombay, which of course is where Anosh grew up. So I said ”˜Why don’t you try your hand at turning this into a play?’ He did, and eventually we premiered it.”

      Millerd adds that My Granny the Goldfish is a perfect fit for the intimate Revue Stage—now a more conventional theatre, without the cabaret-style tables of its earlier incarnation—and reiterates that Irani’s strength is his ability to find universal import in the particulars of his upbringing.

      The playwright doesn’t disagree.

      “When I came to Canada, I realized how much I longed for Bombay, how much I longed for India,” he says. “And I think that ache—that desire to be there again—was what made me write.

      “Vancouver is definitely my home, and I’m very proud to be in Canada,” he adds. “But also India is my muse, in a way. It’s a great teacher. So there’s no reason for me to cut anything off: both places enrich me as a human being, and as a writer.”

      Watch an interview with My Granny the Goldfish playwright Anosh Irani.

      Artistic managing director Bill Millerd talks about the Arts Club's new Revue Stage.