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‘A Passage to India’, Asif Khan talks about role and burgeoning career as actor, writer, playwright and producer – who also has Channel 4 writing bursary

‘A Passage to India’, Asif Khan talks about role and burgeoning career as actor, writer, playwright and producer – who also has Channel 4 writing bursary

Talented and gifted both as an actor and writer, this is one man to watch and keep watching

By Suman Bhuchar

THERE’S little question that Asif Khan is a rising talent – currently reprising the lead role in an adaptation of novelist EM Forster’s classic ‘A Passage to India’ – his reputation continues to grow, both as an actor and a playwright.

Fielding (Richard Goulding) and Dr Aziz (Asif Khan)

His first play as a writer, ‘Combustion’ won the Asian Media Awards Best Production in 2017 and he was nominated in the Best writer category at The Stage Debut Awards and for Best New Play in the off-West End Awards. The production ran at Tara and Arcola theatres in London and toured.

A Passage to India’, originally penned in 1924 by Forster, as a novel set in British India, has been adapted into plays several times – and it is, among a few things, an exploration of whether the British and the Indians (in colonial India) could really be friends. In the story, ‘Dr Aziz’, played by Khan, is accused of the rape of an young Englishwoman, ‘Adela’ (Phoebe Pyrce), but he is later vindicated.

“I was just called in to audition for the part and it’s a really interesting character, really well written, very complex and lots of different sides to him and I found him very interesting,” Khan told

“That’s why I really wanted to play the part, and it’s exactly what I thought, it’s been a good journey to discover exactly who he is, and I still haven’t found exactly who he is and we can just explore the scenes every time we do it.”

One of Dr Aziz’s friends is an Englishman, ‘Cyril Fielding’ (played here by Richard Goulding) and this is a very important relationship for Aziz which is constantly tested by their own sensitivities as men – and also the imposed prejudices of the Raj.

“It’s just about two friends who genuinely wanted to be friends but can’t because of the division between race, culture, religion which is stopping that happening, but underneath it’s about two human beings who want to have this friendship and it’s a very pure friendship.”

He explained that the author, Forster was gay, and obviously during that time wasn’t able to come out, so within this story he is exploring the ability of men to be able to have a friendship that transcends sexuality.

“Basically, with men normally when they become friends, there is this masculine type of shield: ‘Hi mate, hi bro. I am your best mate, but we won’t hug, I will just handshake.’ That kind of friendship, whereas this is pure, there is two men, there is nothing inhibiting them, they just want to be friends. They are both very sensitive men, and there’s nothing about their masculinity which is stopping them not being close.”

There is a lot more in the play about the big idea of friendships across race and class, and Fielding feels hurt when Dr Aziz rejects his friendship when he is arrested, because he erroneously thinks that Fielding is siding with his own people.

Khan, who was born in Bradford, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, has recently appeared in ‘The Hypocrite’ (Hull Truck, RSC 2017), ‘Paradise of the Assassins’ (Tara Arts, 2016), and ‘Diana and I’ (BBC 2017), but alongside his acting he has ventured into writing and producing, because he wants to provide an authenticity of a British Muslim voice in the theatre space.

His one man show, ‘Love, Bombs and Apples’ (written by Hassan Abdurazzak), which his company, AIK Productions produced along with Turtle Key Arts toured in 2015/6 will be touring again this year from the end of March.

The show has been invited to perform it at the Potrero Stage in San Francisco from April 19 – May 6, 2018, where it is being presented by Golden Theatre Productions, an American company that brings Middle-Eastern voices centre stage, and is also touring UK. (Please see details below).

Just recently it was announced that he was also one of five writers awarded a Channel 4 Playwrighting Bursary (who each received £10,000) to write a new play. As the Channel 4 press release explained: “Channel 4 is delighted to announce the five winners of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme which celebrates and supports emerging British writing talent. The initiative (formerly the Pearson Playwrights’ Scheme) awards five bursaries a year to new theatre writers and has been supported by Channel 4 since 2013. Four bursaries are supported by Channel 4 and the fifth by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation.” (See details on the other winners below).

Khan told “I was one of five winners which is a fantastic thing and ought to support you financially as well. It’s a bursary to write a play with Rifco Theatre Company and Watford Palace, and I am really excited to start writing it and developing the play. It’s too early but I’ll just say it’s a very wacky comedy!”

Asif Khan can be seen ‘A Passage to India’ at The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London, until March 24 (please see below for ticket info)

See AVC review of ‘A Passage to India’

Listings Love, Bombs and Apples
Love Bombs and Apples will be touring to:
Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton
Wednesday March 28 7.30PM
01582 878 100
The Lowry, Salford Quays
0161 208 6010

Potrero Stage
April 19 to May 6
Golden Thread Productions
1695 18th Street, #C101 Annex
San Francisco, CA 94107
Box Office:
Phone: 415.626.4061

Chats Palace, London
Friday and Saturday May 11 & 12 F
020 8533 0227

Old Fire Station, Oxford
Tuesday May 15 7.30PM
01865 263 990

artsdepot, London
Thursday May 17 7.30PM
020 8369 5454

Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Monday and Tuesday May 20 & 21 7.45PM
024 7652 4524

Lighthouse Poole
Friday, May 8PM
01202 280000

Oldham Library, Live@thelibrary
Friday, May 29 7PM
0161 770 8000

The recipients of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme bursaries for 2017, each of whom will receive £10,000, are:
Sonali Bhattacharyya (‘Deepa The Saint’) Orange Tree Theatre(supported by The Peggy Ramsay Foundation)
Asif Khan (‘Combustion’) Joint entry from RIFCO Arts and Watford Palace Theatre
Natasha Marshall (‘Half Breed’) Clean Break
Janice Okoh (‘Egusi Soup’) Menagerie
Adura Onashile (‘Expensive Shit’) Traverse Theatre

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture