Love thy Shakespeare

The Drama School of Mumbai's current batch will present Juliet Aur Uska Romeo, a Hindi adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic on the Valentine's Day weekend as part of their curriculum

When we stepped into a rehearsal hall on the fifth floor of Girgaum's The Drama School of Mumbai (DSM), we found a young Juliet, standing in a makeshift balcony and calling out to her Romeo. The dialogues that were mouthed in Hindi didn't seem odd, and both actors seemed absorbed in their characters.

Students at a rehearsal of the play at Drama School of Mumbai. PICs/BIPIN KOKATE
Students at a rehearsal of the play at Drama School of Mumbai. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The students of DSM will be presenting a Hindi adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, Romeo and Juliet as part of their of their first semester presentation. The play, titled Juliet Aur Uska Romeo, has been directed by theatre personality Aniruddha Khutwad who is visiting faculty at FTII in Pune and had also taught at the DSM in 2013.

Aniruddha Khutwad
Aniruddha Khutwad

"Usually, people present Shakespeare's plays in the 16th century setting. When I was introduced to the 13 students from this batch and saw their performances, I felt this play would be best suited for them; it then struck me that a contemporary setting would be apt," shares Khutwad, who steps out of the rehearsal hall with us, to avoid disturbing the act. "I don't consider this an adaptation but a retelling of the story. In an adaptation you change the names of the characters and Indianise them. I have retained the city Verona as well as the names of the characters. The context, however, is contemporary, urban and Indian," he tells us, while also revealing that he named the play differently since he felt that "it is Juliet's acceptance of Romeo, from his proposal to their death that binds the story".

The play has been translated by Sangeet Natak Akademi award-winner, Amitabh Srivastava. "It's a proper translation — word for word, thought for thought. We had different translation options. Amitabh's version is straight and modern, not in pure Hindustani, so we chose to go with it," shares course convener Jehan Manekshaw.

This will be the first full-length production that the current batch of students is undertaking. The play will be an intimate black-box experience where only 50 people will get to experience the story together at a time. It uses realism as the basis of the narrative and hence, the style of production is minimalist.

When we ask him why Shakespeare, Manekshaw responds promptly, "Shakespeare is not a British playwright. He is global. There's something about a basic human condition that exists regardless of where you are, which I feel is best explored through Shakespeare," adding that the Bard is also very actor-friendly. "The characters speak from the heart. It's a fundamental text that offers them a full range of what they can do with a line. It's not enough to have read it or seen it, you have to get up on stage and perform it. If you haven't done Shakespeare, what kind of a drama school are you?" he suggests, before rushing back to check on the rehearsals.

From: February 12 to 14, 7 pm
At: The Drama School Mumbai, Purandare Hall, fifth floor, Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh, Charni Road.
For tickets, log on to (tickets will also be available at the venue)

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