Guru of Chai Programme - Indian Ink Theatre Company

Guru of Chai



quote mark

“We want to leave an indelible imprint on your heart; that’s why we’re called Indian Ink.”

quote mark

About Indian Ink

Founded by Justin Lewis and Jacob Rajan (MNZM) 27 years ago, Indian Ink is now one of Aotearoa’s most successful theatre companies – winning 13 national and international awards, critical acclaim, standing ovations and sell out seasons. Since 1997 their original plays have enriched the lives of over 510,000 people. Alongside a whanau of multi-talented artists, Indian Ink creates vibrant, fresh, culturally diverse theatre that combines artful storytelling, mischievous wit and theatrical magic in a way that celebrates our differences and connects us through our shared humanity.

full image block
full image block
full image block

A Note from Justin & Jacob

We met Nyoman Sukerta in Bali. He was a master mask dancer and shadow puppeteer and inspiration for our Guru. A squat little man who moved with astonishing grace and fluidity; always smiling, always laughing, a weakness for beer and cockfighting, steeped in the traditions and nuances of shadow puppetry and mask yet desperate to have a Facebook page. Gently worried about his growing paunch, his ambition toward wealth and status were at odds with his desire to go fishing at every opportunity. Indulged his children, exasperated his long-suffering wife – the man literally danced into our lives, and onto the pages of this play as a fully formed character. Sadly, Nyoman died in 2014 but we hope his spirit lives on in this play. 

In Bali we experienced the arts as part of daily life; alive in all sorts of contexts, needing only the simplest of technologies yet displaying incredible sophistication of form. The island and the people inspired us. The world of the street carts and hawkers where ancient and modern collide informed the world of our Guru. 

The challenge given to David Ward, our composer, was the one we wrestled with ourselves. How to convey multiple locations, the chaos and complexity of contemporary India and a story that spans decades?  He must have got something right. David’s efforts earned him “Composer of the Year” in the 2010 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards.  That same night, Jacob picked up “Actor of the Year” and the show scooped “NZ Play of the Year.”  

Such a fairytale reception seems fitting for a play, itself inspired by an Indian fairy tale – “Punchkin.” This story got under our skin with its rich cast of characters and complex morality but its sprawling narrative held us at bay for some time.  The breakthrough came when Murray Edmond encouraged us to set the story in modern India. We focused on just a part of that original story and suddenly we found we had a romantic thriller.  

We hope you enjoy your audience with the Guru. 

Justin Lewis & Jacob Rajan 

full image block


Kuitsar – Our Guru

Officer Punchkin (later Minister Punchkin)

Balna – One of the Seven Sisters
Imran – Balna’s Husband
Little Imran – Balna & Imran’s Child

The Fakir
Thumby – a local gangster

Dave – a mute musician

The Tale of Punchkin

“The Tale of Punchkin: A Lesson in Kindness and Caution” is part of a collection of Indian fairy tales from the late 19th Century.

Continue Reading

Chai & Chai-Wallah

Chai is a traditional Indian beverage.

Continue Reading


Guru is a term used in Indian culture to refer to a spiritual teacher or guide who possesses deep knowledge and wisdom in a particular field.

Continue Reading
quote mark



quote mark
quote mark


Sydney Morning Herald

quote mark
quote mark

Nothing short of genius

Time Out Singapore

quote mark
quote mark

Sheer brilliance… a joy to behold

NZ Listener

quote mark

Chai Stand

Justin Lewis sits smiling at the camera while tying his sock on his front pouch. HIs tan coloured dog is sitting next to him.

Chai Stand Chats: Justin Lewis

We sit down with Director and Co-writer of Guru of Chai Justin Lewis to get some behind the scenes thoughts on the show.

Continue Reading
Jacob Rajan sits on a stool wearing a white long shelved shirt with strips and black jeans.

Chai Stand Chats: Jacob Rajan

We sit down with Performer & Co-writer of Guru of Chai Jacob Rajan to get some behind the scenes thoughts on the show.

Continue Reading

Our Cast
And Crew

JUDE FROUDE – General Manager
PENE LISTER – Producer
NAOMI CAMPION – Administration & Development Manager
OLIVIA BRINKMANN – Digital Marketer

Indian Ink wishes to thank all of its incredible patrons, funding partners and supporters without whom the show could not go on.


Addington Law, Adele Mason, Ainsley Walter & Mark Stewart, Alison Blain, Anne & John MacVicar, Andrea Crichton, Anne Coney, Barbara Netten, Bev & Geoff Pownall, Bridget & Simon Tompkins, Catherine Atchison, Chrissie Fernyhough, David Lowe, Deborah & Ross George, Di Le Cren & Graeme Edwards, Felicity & Ivan Willis, Gail & Stephen Hofmann, Georgie Knight, Gill & Brian Walker, Lady Gillian & Sir Roderick Deane, Graham Howie, Hanna Scott & Craig Anderson, Hannah Maschler, Helen Klisser During, Helen Moody & Jeremy Edwards, Jane Cherrington, Janet Clarke & John Judge, Jasvinder Singh & Bryce Keith, Jenny & Andrew Smith, Jenny & Ray McElroy, Jill Oakley, Jo & John Gow, Karen Fraser & Mike Scully, Kate & Hanlin Johnston, Laila Harré & Barry Gribben, Lancely & Jeffrey Law, Malcolm Don, Margaret Lee, Marianne Infante, Mike Rudd, Pippa MacKay & Paul Stanley-Joblin, Ranjna & Kanti Patel, Ravi & Prabha Ravi, Rebecca Turner, R F Morrison, Susie & Richard Rowntree, Sondra Wigglesworth, Trish & John Gribben, Valmai Shearer 

Advisory Board

Ranjna Patel (Chair),  Craig Anderson, Helen Klisser During, Sarwat T Ebbett & Liz Miller

Indian Ink Trust

Jacob Rajan (Chair), Justin Lewis, Craig Anderson

Thanks to

Helen Cisowski, Sam Mence & Molloy (CASTL), the amazing venue teams, Susheela, Isaac, Dominic & Nina Rajan, Philippa Woods, Rachel Nash  

full image block


Actor Jacob Rajan as Kutisar, played by Jacob Rajan, makes a shadow puppet of a parrot with his hands in a dark room.

Guru Imparts his Comic Wisdom

The wisdom of the Guru Kutisah is good for what ails you.

Continue Reading
Actor Jacob Rajan stands with a surprised look on his face holding a lantern

Guru of Chai: An India of Jacob Rajan’s imagination

Rajan who takes on the delightful role of the guru as well as 17 characters in Guru of Chai, says the play is based on an Indian fairy tale.

Continue Reading
Actor Jacob Rajan stands in front of a white door holding a lantern

A Taste Of Magic, Guru Of Chai Is A Joy Which Makes You Laugh And Touches Your Heart

Guru of Chai is a taste of the real magic of theatre, a wonderful performer telling a story which makes you laugh, shows you magic, and touches your heart.

Continue Reading