From 'Piya Behrupiya' to 'Hindi Medium', writer Amitosh Nagpal on adapting and adaptations

Jun 04, 2017, 08:24 IST | Benita Fernando

From the play Piya Behrupiya to the film Hindi Medium, writer Amitosh Nagpal on adapting and adaptations

Amitosh Nagpal
Amitosh Nagpal

Amitosh Nagpal holds no illusions. As we stroll around Juhu Beach, the 32-year-old is sharing the experiences of the last couple of days. Talli Tuesday, a new Hindi play written and directed by Nagpal, premiered at Prithvi Theatre earlier this week. His friends had warned him that a title like "Talli Tuesday" was too cheesy for Prithvi; his critics have been unimpressed and his friends supportive.

The play captures five modern romances that take place over a dating app named Talli Tuesday. With hysterics, elements of nautanki and farcical situations, the play managed to muster enough laughs from the audiences. "I think I wanted to ruin my reputation as a writer. Respect kills your courage," he says.

If it sounds self-satisfied, then that is not the case. That Nagpal is wary of being typecast as the thinking audience's writer, director or actor is more the truth. In what's been a busy May, Nagpal wrote the witty and impactful dialogues for the Irrfan Khan-starrer, Hindi Medium, written by Zeenat Lakhani and directed by Saket Chaudhary. He has been busy with lead roles in two films, one of which he has produced. He also adapted The Elephant's Journey, a novel by the late Nobel-prize winning Portuguese writer, Jose Saramago, for the stage as Gajab Kahani. The play was an ambitious one, moving many to tears, while some seemed put off by the exaggerated farce. "Talli Tuesday is a popular play and is light. After every play, I want to try something else, see life through a different lens. I can't always wait for the good muse to strike me; if I feel like writing something, I just go for it. I want to make the experience of watching a play the way we go to a cinema — there is something for everyone," he says.

Making it your own
In Talli Tuesday, Nagpal sneaks in a line that this is no Shakespeare and everyone can therefore relax. It is a telling of this artiste's growth, considering Nagpal came to the fore with Piya Behrupiya, an award-winning musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and directed by Atul Kumar. Called in as a lyricist, Nagpal went on to adapt the entire text (in just four days) and essay the role of Sebastian, Viola's twin. The play, first performed at The Globe Theatre, continues to tickle our funny bone mercilessly, and showcased Nagpal's versatility as lyricist, writer and actor.

In Nagpal's hands, an adaptation extends beyond mere translations. He doesn't change settings superficially nor does he make a gimmick out of . Scripts get teleported in an authentic, coherent manner. The skill of adaptation, says Nagpal (in a forceful Hindi mixed with English), goes right back to his college days at the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi. "I used to simplify scripts for myself. If we had to read a Greek play, I would consider how it would be in 'hamari bolchal ke basha'," he says. He adds that at NSD, students and actors from across the country came over. "It is a chance for people to learn from each other, but it hardly happens. Zubaan zaroori hai ya aadmi zaroori hai?" he says.

The same experience comes forth in Hindi Medium, a story about an aspirational couple that wants their daughter to have an English-medium education in a prestigious school. Nagpal, while writing the dialogues, wanted to make sure that it didn't seem insulting to English-speakers. "I like writing in couplets and it is always encouraging to see an actor like Irrfan get the rhythm," he explains.

Coming back to Talli Tuesday, Nagpal says that blind dating through an app, for instance, is something that the new India, even a tier II city, is waking up to. "People say that Mumbai has run out of stories. But that is only because they are not looking at the right places," he says.

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