Piya Behrupiya : A Colourful Shakespearean Pastiche

It’s almost sacrilege to suggest that somebody could equal Shakespeare’s genius or even add to it, but theatre genius, Atul Kumar seems to have achieved just that with the brilliant adaptation of Amitosh Nagpal’s translation of the Bard’s Twelfth Night. I had been waiting for this play to come to Bangalore since ages, so when Atul Kumar posted that they would be opening for the It’s Shakespeare, the 2012 edition of Rangshankara Festival, I could barely contain my excitement!

This is the third play I’ve seen by The Company Theatre – if I was awed by the genius of the cast of Blue Mug and blown away by the vaudeville act of Hamlet, I was absolutely mesmerised by the brilliance of the dialogues and acting by the entire cast of Piya Behrupiya.

Brilliantly adapted to the Indian context, Piya Behrupiya is presented in the form of a traditional Indian “nautanki” and even though Atul Kumar and Nagpal have retained the original names of the characters, everything else is delightfully Indian. The dialogues are replete with cultural sarcasm ( the howlarious “Aap kahan ko belong karte ho?“) the puns are such that only an Indian could get their full import, yet the play is so true to the original and there lies the genius of the playwright and director.

Amitosh Nagpal (Cesario) and Mansi Multani (Olivia).

Whatever I say about the cast will not suffice – Geetanjali Kulkarni essayed the role of both Viola and Cesario with great aplomb, Mansi Multani as Olivia, delighted with her Punjabi accent (full marks to her accent every time she utters the name of “Ce-ja-rio”), Sagar Deshmukh had the audience in splits with his timely Marathi idioms. If Neha Saraf regaled the audience with her interpretation of the Clown Feste, Amitosh Nagpal as the narrator and Cesario had the audience eating out of his hands, what with his mischievous lamentations of his thankless job as the translator of the play and his minuscule role.

The high point of the play of course is the folk music, interspersed adroitly with the dialogues of the play. So while Sir Andrews pirouettes to Sufi music, the Clown spouts Kabir’s verses! One is also treated to qawalis and love songs from the yesteryears, all mingling flawlessly with witty dialogues peppered with the choicest expletives in Hindi!

Atul Kumar has come up with a vibrant pastiche of Shakespeare enriched with the Indian nautanki, proving his mettle beyond a shadow of doubt. Shakespeare continues to rock centuries after he first wrote his comedies in a completely disparate cultural set-up! My friends and I had entered the hall with much anticipation, we left hungry for more…

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