Love will keep us alive

Updated: Nov 18, 2019, 08:31 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

After directing the epic tale of Mughal-e-Azam, director Feroz Abbas Khan returns to the stage with a remake of another classic love story

Rehearsals in progress for the play
Rehearsals in progress for the play

It looks like director Feroz Abbas Khan is a man on a mission. These are fractious times. The universal milk of human kindness seems like it's down to its last dregs. People are being silenced in the name of religion. Walls — both literal and metaphorical — are being created to further the cause of nationalism. But Khan's out here to spread the message of love. He wants to tell us that in the end, hatred will always be defeated. And that's why he has embarked on his latest project, a musical called Raunaq & Jassi, which is a retelling of what is probably the greatest love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet.

Neha Sargam, who essays the role of JassiNeha Sargam, who essays the role of Jassi

It comes after Khan directed a stage version of another epic tale of love, Mughal-e-Azam, which premiered in 2016. But there is actually a totally different play, called Masiha Tonight, that he'd been mulling over for a while. Khan says, "Every time I approach it, though, something else comes my way. That's what happened with Mughal-e-Azam. And the same writer who I work with, Iqbal Raj, told me why don't we follow up Mughal-e-Azam with another love story. We've taken on one classic. So why not lock our hands with another one? Let's just raise the stakes and challenge ourselves, because for me, a challenge is a motivator. The possibility that this is perhaps going to be one of the toughest things I have done gives me the inspiration to do my work. If I think that I can do something easily, I don't want to do it because that would mean that I'm not growing. Complacency, essentially, is something that bothers me."

Feroz Abbas KhanFeroz Abbas Khan

No wonder, then, that the scale of Raunaq & Jassi seems massive. When we visit the swanky Vile Parle auditorium where it will be staged, a break has just started from a rehearsal. The set looks as intricate as an elaborate ensemble for a fashion week that Manish Malhotra has created, who, incidentally, has designed the costumes. There is a balcony set up on the right. It is the story of Romeo and Juliet after all, though Khan tells us that while some of the plot lines remain the same, the script for his remake is completely original. The story is set in Punjab. The period is the 1950s. The reason for that timeframe is that, at the age of 60, Khan connects more with that generation. He tells us, "I find many lust stories these days, and very few love stories. And there's something charming about distance when it comes to time, particularly when you're dealing with love stories. If you're dealing with socio-political ideas you need to set it in the present age. So, it being a period piece, I wanted to put my period into it, without going back to the 15th and 16th centuries [which is around when William Shakespeare wrote his play]."

Manish MalhotraManish Malhotra

He adds that the look of the musical is going to be impressionistic, with shades of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. The tale of course follows the travails of two star-crossed lovers who come from feuding families. But Khan is reluctant to reveal too much about the plot since he's afraid that that would kill the element of surprise. He does tell us, though, that the central message of the play is this — let there be love. Mughal-e-Azam, Raunaq & Jassi, and Masiha Tonight (whenever it's completed) are in fact a trilogy of sorts, in the sense that they deal with that same theme. These, like we said, are fractious times, when human society is finding it increasingly difficult to come around the idea of being compassionate. And Khan says, "The point is very clear, that hatred will get exhausted. Love will take all the blows, but it will only grow. You can perhaps kill people, but you cannot kill love. Hatred can only kill people, and it can kill an environment. After all, as human beings, our faith is in life, and life cannot be lived without love. And in the times that we are living in, I think that that's a really important message."

On November 28, 7.30 pm
At Mukesh Patel Auditorium, Navyug Society, Navpada, Juhu Vile Parle Development Scheme, Vile Parle West.
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Cost Rs 950

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