Money can't buy you love

Updated: 14 December, 2018 13:38 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

A stage adaptation of James Dean's Hollywood film Giant changes the setting from Texas to Assam, but retains the themes of love, wealth and jealousy

A scene from the technical rehearsal for Giant. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
A scene from the technical rehearsal for Giant. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

We all have shades of grey in us. No one's a saint. Everyone's a sinner. Take the emotion of desire. The noblest of men have crumbled in the face of it. It's all good if the love a person feels for another human being is reciprocated. But what if it's not? What if that affection is a caged beast desperate for freedom? Would the person still play by the acceptable rules of society, putting up a veneer of civility while hiding a gnawing emptiness inside? No, not necessarily. For, there are times when he or she is liable to crack.

That is one of the overarching themes of the 1956 movie called Giant, based on a book of the same name. The plot deals with a Texan family and their neighbour, played by James Dean, who falls head over heels for the woman of the house. But she doesn't see him with the same eyes. Her heart is set on her husband, a wealthy landowner. The neighbour initially feels that it's his relative poverty that's coming in the way. But then he strikes oil. Yet, his advances continue to be spurned. And so they will be for the rest of his life, which leaves him feeling hopelessly alone despite all the wealth in the world.

Now, that same plot has been adapted in an Indian setting for an English play that will debut at a SoBo theatre this weekend. Texas becomes Assam. The ranch becomes a tea plantation. And Jett Rink, Dean's character, becomes Eklavya Rajkhowa, essayed by Mikhael Kantroo. The others in the cast include Tirrtha Murbadkar playing the role of Gayatri, who Eklavya longs for, and Varun Pande, who will be seen as Arjun Singh Thakur, Gayatri's husband. The play, which retains the name Giant, has been directed by Sehaj K Maini and Shreyas Porus Pardiwalla.

And the saga that unfolds in the storyline seeks to question the codes of morality that govern us. Arjun, for all his seeming righteousness, has a deeply patriarchal nature that has been embedded in him since birth. Gayatri is expected to abide by the pati-parmeshwar conduct despite being a highly educated woman. And even though Eklavya is painted as a scheming manipulator, deep down, all he wants is for Gayatri's love to blossom in his barren heart.

"He doesn't understand initially what he's done wrong for him to be spat on, beaten and abused just because he's poor. And the obsession he feels [for Gayatri] comes from years and years of resentment about not getting what he wants," Kantroo says about Eklavya, adding that James Dean's character affected him deeply when he first saw Giant as an 11-year-old, and confessing, "So, if there's even one 11-year-old in the audience who empathises with Eklavya, then I'll feel that my job is done. I'll sleep well at night."

ON: December 14 and 15, 7 pm
AT: The Royal Opera House, Girgaum.
COST: Rs 500 onwards

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First Published: 14 December, 2018 05:00 IST

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