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Shakespeare gets a Gujarati makeover

Helena becomes Heli and Bertram becomes Bharatram! But the wit, and the powerful women characters remain intact. Arpana Theatre Company’s latest musical play Maro Piyu Gayo Rangoon (MPGR) (The person I love has gone to Rangoon) brings Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well to stage in Gujarati.


(Left to Right) Nishi Doshi as Alkini, Chirag Vora as Bharatram and Manasi Parekh Gohil as Heli in Maro Piyu Gayo Rangoon

Directed by Sunil Shanbag, the play stars Chirag Vora as Bharatram (originally Bertram), Manasi Parekh Gohil as Heli (Helena), Meenal Patel as Kunti, Bharatram’s mother (Countess of Rousillon) and Nishi Doshi as Alkini (Diana). Writer Mihir Bhuta has adapted the play while the music is by Uday Mazumdar. The play is set in an imaginary village called Rasoli in the 1900s in Saurashtra and shifts between Mumbai and Rangoon (now Yangon) with the leading characters playing members of a rich Bhatia family, one of the earliest Gujarati migrants in the city: “That’s why we adapted the play and didn’t translate it,” explains Shanbag. “Had the play been set in Florence, it would have resulted in alienation of the audience. So, it was important to decide the period and the place the play would be set in,” he elaborates.

The two-hour play is a musical and includes 16 to 20 songs that will define several scenes. “Shakespeare’s works are very lyrical and poetic. Also, there are several soliloquies and monologues which we thought would be better rendered through songs,” reveals Shanbag on the decision to turn the play into a musical, with live music.

Shanbag feels that directing any play is a big challenge and directors are usually walking a tightrope till the play is finally on stage, but the biggest challenge with directing MPGR was the language as this is his first Gujarati play as director. 

Narrated by Archan Trivedi (who also plays the character, Laffa Bhai), the play revolves around Heli who loves Bharatram and asks for his hand in marriage as a reward for curing his uncle Rao Bahadur Gokuldas. Bharatram puts down two conditions, which Heli must fulfil for him to take her as his wife, before heading off to Rangoon where he falls in love with Alkini. What follows is a typical Shakespearan-inspired plot of a dramedy (drama + comedy). The cast of the play also includes veteran actor Utkarsh Majumdar along with Satchit Puranik, Natasha Singh and Ajay Jairam.

 

Gujarati play goes international
Maro Piyu Gayo Rangoon is one of the 37 Shakespearan plays this year at the Globe International Theatre Festival in London. It will be performed as Sau Saaru Jenu Chevat Saru. Atul Kumar’s Barvi Raat is also part of the festival.
 

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