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Shakespeare turns folksy

Shakespeare turns folksy
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Atul Kumar seemed to have accomplished exactly what many find to be a daunting task. He managed to add value to one of William Shakespeare’s classics, Twelfth Night. Adapted in Hindi, the play is titled Piya Behrupiya.

Kumar confesses that there’s always the fear ‘of not connecting with the audience, of completely making a mess  of the original text and the world of the play, but then that is the fear always with everything’.

His passion for theatre, love for poignant yet stoic characters sketched in Shakespearean drama have made Piya Behrupia one of the finest works of the director which left the audience in splits.

‘The play has a strong Indian folk leaning. It was translated by Amitosh Nagpal, who plays Sebastian in the play. We believe in translations more than adaptations actually. It keeps the basic flavour of the play alive,’ said Kumar.

The Company Theatre won praise for its performance of Piya Behrupiya at the World Shakespeare Festival in London in April. ‘The audience sang with us, clapped, waved and danced with our actors and singers. It was quite a riot. The amazing thing was it was an 80 per cent non-Hindi speaking audience and they still enjoyed it thoroughly,’ said Kumar.

Piya Behrupiya stands out specially because, though the play is in Hindi, it had a Punjabi leaning which upgraded the fun quotient. The play was flooded with generous amount of folk music and dance combined with dollops of hilarious moments. All of this undoubtedly clicked with the Delhi audience.

‘Shakespeare in India is always a superhit. Not only because his name draws the audience but also because Shakespeare’s tales and human conditions are quite timeless, space-less and cultureless and they are simply human,’ Kumar says.

Piya Behrupiya retains the essence of Twelfth Night but adds a dash of Indianness to it. Amitosh Nagpal, narrated to tell us that it was he who translated the play and what a thankless job it was. He laments Shakespeare’s stepfatherly treatment of his character, Sebastian [Viola’s twin], and that he has all of four lines that too at the end of the play and wonders aloud if he could have played another role, indirectly taunting the director too.

His endearing andaz in delivering his dialogues — Yeh thou —thy kar lete?, Dil par haath rakh kar kahiye, yeh Toby ka role main nahi kar sakta tha? enchanted all present.

The play’s treatful and striking moments were the Mata ka Jagrata where Gagan Riar who plays the perpetually sloshed Uncle Toby suddenly takes on the stage as Billu Dangerous and the rest of the cast doubles up as his Jagrata Mandali. There’s also a killer Qawwali at the end where Sebastian and Andrew take on each other as they fight over for Olivia.
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