“We are still in the world where, when you are a person of color, it is considered diversity,” he added. “‘We already have an Indian Muslim story being told over here, so we can’t have another one.’ Having said that, we have come a long way.”
Just as the times have changed, so has Mr. Mandvi. “Can I physically do it again?” he said he asked himself. “Twenty years ago, I was 20 years younger, and it was exhausting then.”
Yet he has clearly grown more comfortable as a performer. “I like to think that I’m a better actor today than I was then,” he said, “just because of the life experience.”
That includes finally getting married, a year ago, to Shaifali Puri, who runs an anti-poverty nonprofit. “When you are 50, people are not happy for you, they’re like, ‘Why?’” Mr. Mandvi joked. “‘Do you have cancer? Does she have cancer? Who has cancer?’”
Mr. Mandvi said he and Ms. Senior have made nips and tucks to streamline the play’s storytelling. But while they tweaked some moments to make it “crackle and feel present in today’s world,” they have left the 1990s time period as is, with all its dated signposts, like cordless phones and Game Boys.
As a result, the whole experience of revisiting the play has been an exercise in nostalgia, Mr. Mandvi said, taking him back to a time when he sold brownies at intermission to earn rent money, had to settle for roles as an Indian cabdriver and could not imagine that he’d someday be recognized on the street.
“‘Sakina’s Restaurant’ was when everything started for me,” he said. “This feels like a return.”