Today, as you settle down to watch the Hindi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Prithvi Theatre, you could expect drama, unrequited love and happy reunions, characteristic to the original. But don’t be surprised by the Bollywood-isation in Piya Behrupiya — actors breaking into song and dance, twins separated at birth, mistaken identities, and sword fights. And it all went well when the group, led by director Atul Kumar, performed the same adaptation at the World Shakespeare Festival in London this April.
Kumar is positive that the audience at the Shakespeare week at Prithvi Theatre this week will love the play just as much. “Back there, most of the audience didn’t understand Hindi. But they laughed, sang out loud, stood in the rain outside the theatre without walking out and the same number returned after the interval, we were told,” says Kumar.
Piya Behrupiya, says Kumar, is more like a translation of Twelfth Night — with a Hindi twist. He has tried to be as faithful to the original play as possible. Editing, however, played a major role in Piya Behrupiya because the three hour-long original play has been condensed to two hours. “The Twelfth Night is very Indian. When was the last time you heard of mistaken identities, twins separating at birth and meeting in the climax, cross dressing, high passion, song and dance — in a Hindi flick? That is also why I decided to make a musical comedy when I adapted the original to create Piya Behrupiya,” says Kumar.
Theatre actor Mansi Multani plays the role of Olivia, the queen pursued by every man in the story. “I love Olivia’s character, she’s hilarious. She breaks down all the time, but her emotions are quite fake. What added the extra edge to Piya Behrupiya is the loud Punjabi setting and how everyone clutches at their dupattas and breaks down the moment she sheds a tear,” says Multani.
This is the first time Kumar is working with his actors Multani, Geetanjali Kulkarni and Trupti Khamkar, among others. For rehearsals, the group took off to Kumar’s theatre residency in Kamshet. “We cooped ourselves up, literally — we cooked together, fought and soon made up. All I knew about them was that they all could sing,” says Kumar.
“The biggest challenge — as it always is even in Bollywood — was coming up with great tunes.” He has never created a musical and the fact that his actors were writers and composers helped him a lot. “The character of Maria, played by Trupti, is that of the Fool. Apart from the usual buffoonery, she’s also ironic and recites Kabir’s dohas to impart wisdom — and all this while being faithful to the original. It’s quite something.” Shakespeare we hope, won’t mind.
When: July 22, 11 am
Where: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu
Tickets: Rs 250