15th Bharangam Diary: notes, rants and experiences

DAY 9: 13th Jan 2013

A very promising day was on offer with Badal Sircar and Shakespeare at the helm. And to top that, the extra tickets we had because of a certain someone who chooses only the best-play-days to remain absent, were sold even before we reached the auditorium. People love watching Hindi plays here at NSD, and you really cannot blame them because the non-Hindi ones have such shoddy subtitles.

Teesveen Shatabdi

Script: Badal Sircar

Director: Avneesh Mishra (Rangshila Cultural & Development Society, Mumbai)

This play is more or less an interesting history lesson about the atomic bombings in Japan. The plot pans out as an investigative ‘court room’ drama where the dead American army men, their family members, Japanese doctors of the time, and even Einstein are called from their graves to explain, interpret and retrospect their actions. The 20th century tries to tell the 30th century that they were not devilish, at least not completely so, and were acting out of duty/beliefs of the time.

Use of multimedia was impactful but sound needed an equal fervour. The stageplay was repetitive and the actors did not really do justice to the intensely written roles. Even veterans like Tom Alter looked jaded, but then maybe it’s just the age.

Call it a personal opinion but no Sircar play should be typically proscenium (even his earlier work, like this, which was intended for the proscenium stage). He was not a poet. His plays are the most suited to interpretation and must be ‘played’ around with.

Piya Behroopiya

Based on: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (text)

Adaptation: Amitosh Nagpal

Director: Atul Kumar (The Company Theatre, Mumbai)

Shakespeare has become redundant. Theatre can very easily live without him, and better for it. There are millions of theses on him and his work, there are films and plays in every language and form imaginable (even Godard has made a King Lear), there are courses and theatre schools designed around him and like celebrities of today he has even been accused of plagiarism.

The man is as popular today as he was in the 17th century.

No. He isn’t.

The biggest achievement of Shakespeare’s was that his productions were so popular with the masses. The people loved his creations. With all the genius of word-play and political allusions, he still made a connect with his audience. Piya Behroopiya did exactly that. It created an atmosphere of triumph inside the vast Kamani auditorium and the people were hooting, whistling, clapping and even singing with the actors. And the meaning of the play was not lost on anyone. The absurdity of the twins, the buffoonery of the ‘fool’ and the tug-of-war between ignorance and sophistication were all present. It was a spectacle that at times derided Shakespeare and at other times borrowed from some of his other works (the ‘what’s in a name’ routine followed by Olivia’s loving laments of Cejario was particularly clever and hilarious). It was casual and free-spirited, agreed, but then this was Twelfth Night not Macbeth.

This is at least a 10-15 stagings old production but the actors, each one of them, were refreshingly spontaneous. Music was exceptionally detailed, and live. The singing was according to the requirement, at times funny and in jest but at other times steady and fine.

Adapting a Shakespeare into another language is always difficult because of the simple fact that the original prose and poetry is far too good. Amitosh Nagpal was helped a great deal by the inane nature of the original text but that does not take anything away from his marvellous effort (Looking forward to his future adaptations/creations).

Badal Sircar proposed the concept of ‘third theatre’ wherein the action is more realistic and the audiences are more involved. Atul Kumar managed to present a play that struck really close to this thought of Sircar’s. If such a form of popular, acceptable and Bharatiya/Indian theatre can be taken beyond the slapstick, into the realm of the contemporarily political, it might just herald a movement. And with such an excellent team, The Company Theatre can surely work in this direction, but only if they are not restless, like the rest of the world, for rapid evolution.

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