The Hound grows a funny bone

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles is coming to town, albeit with a humourous twist

It is around 5 pm when I reach the third floor of St Paul's complex in Bandra. Sir Henry Baskerville, "a small, alert, dark-eyed man about 30 years of age, very sturdily built," and Dr John H Watson, the stout sidekick and apprentice to world renowned detective Sherlock Holmes, are already on their way to the Baskerville estate in Devon. The duo has boarded a train. But, there seems to be much confusion about who has the ticket.

Akash Khurana Pic/Nimesh Dave
Akash Khurana Pic/Nimesh Dave 

The conversation that ensues is hilarious. For the uninitiated, it all might seem a bit weird. Why would Dr Watson, whom Sherlock has dispatched to Baskerville Hall as his stand-in, and Sir Henry, whose uncle is recently brutally murdered by a 'hound', be concerned with such trivial issues? Or do they have some serious implications?

Well, I am at the rehearsals of AKVarious Productions's upcoming play, an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskerville. Various theatre groups have been adapting literary works for Aadyam, an initiative by the Aditya Birla Group. And this is the fourth play in the series.

The thriller begins with the death of Sir Charles Baskerville. His body is found at his estate and although the death is attributed to a heart attack, the terrified look etched on his face and the gigantic paw prints of a canine nearby raises suspicions of an unnatural death. With an ancient curse looming on the Baskerville family, Sherlock Holmes is summoned to solve the case.

Karan Pandit, Arghya Lahiri and Vivek Madan rehearse the play, which will be staged at the NCPA this Saturday and Sunday. For details log on to:
Karan Pandit, Arghya Lahiri and Vivek Madan rehearse the play, which will be staged at the NCPA this Saturday and Sunday. For details log on to: 

However, the play, adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson is an irreverent comedic version of the Doyle's classic. "The Hound of the Baskerville is one of the most popular stories of Doyle and has been widely adapted for various mediums. In this particular version, the playwrights have served the original plot laden with copious amount of laughter. It was previously staged by Peepolykus (pronounced People Like Us) and we accidentally came across the script.

What tempted us to take up the project was that it gives ample opportunity to play out various kinds of humour while staying true to the thriller format," says Akash Khurana, the director.

Sherlock and Watson have gone through a lot of experimentations from the playwrights in recent times. While Robert Downey Jr made Holmes a martial arts expert, BBC's eponymous television series, made the famous residents of 221b Baker Street part of almost every household and people not only started rediscovering this pipe sucking 'consulting detective' and his astute logical reasoning, but he also became a poster boy, thanks to the cuteness of a certain creature who goes by the name Benedict Cumberbatch. Meanwhile in America, Holmes and Watson are busy cooking up a different chemistry on the backdrop of a Manhattan skyline.

"I think of these as a tribute or a celebration of the original work. It is important to contemporise in order to make the stories relevant to the changing times and connect to newer audiences," says Khurana adding, "When you dramatise the actual story, you are showcasing your perception of the story. It is the difference in perception that gives birth to various interpretations of a same story."

The play has a five-member ensemble cast of Karan Pandit (Sherlock, Jack Stapleton, Miss Stapleton and various characters), Arghya Lahiri (Watson), Vivek Madan (Sir Henry and various characters), Rytasha Rathore (Mr and Mrs Barrymore and various characters) and Vivaan Shah (Mortimar).

Ask him about his favourite scene and he can't pick one, "Maybe it is the first scene as it sets the tone…or maybe it is the last, if I can pull it off the way I want to! I love the play as a whole. The script tests you at every juncture. It is written in a very quirky and tongue-in-cheek manner. There are small tributes, nuggets and subtle references that people who are accustomed to the stories of Holmes will easily understand. And for those who are new to the classic, it will be an altogether new story any way," laugh Khurana.

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