Monday, January 20, 2014

Letting the Strings Loose

The play, 'Romeo and Juliet: no strings attached', is all about the freedom to make choices, and the repercussions of that

Photo by Suresh Nampoothiri

By Shevlin Sebastian

The play, 'Romeo and Juliet: no strings attached' begins with four actors, masquerading as puppets, as they hop around on the stage. One of them says, “Day after day, I do the same things. I make the same moves. I say the same story like clockwork. I make the same mistakes.”
But, on one particular night, they realise that if they pull hard the strings will come loose, and they can run away and do anything they want, instead of acting in William Shakespeare’s play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, night after night.

But before they flee, they decide to act one last time in front of an empty auditorium. “With freedom they realise that they can do ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in a different way,” says director Prashant Nair of the Bangalore-based Tahatto Theatre. The group had come to Kochi to take part in the 'Museum Fest', organised by the Museum of Art and Kerala History.

While the puppets are giving Shakespearean dialogues, in between, they veer off to contemporary times in India. So there is talk about matrimonial advertisements, hunger strikes, the misdeeds of politicians and a mocking reference to television anchor Arnab Goswami and his thunderous line, ‘The Nation Wants to Know’.

Sometimes, the dialogues, in English as well as Hindi, are tongue-in cheek: 'Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to bring forth our hero Romeo. Now if it was a Karan Johar movie, there would be a Shiamak Davar dance song. If it was a Ramgopal Varma film, there will be a woman running with nothing on.”

Prashant also made some ingenious changes. When he came across a stuffy speech by Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, in which he asks the latter to get out of the sulk that he was in, because a woman named Rosaline has ditched him, and to start meeting other ladies, Prashant cuts it down to some witty lines, in the style of a rap song:

Yo Yo,
My main man Romeo,
You aware of this whole scenario,
Downtown Verona,
Beckons us.
Don't tell me you don't feel no buzz.
There are chicks there waiting to mingle,
So get off your ass and change your Facebook status to single.

Prashant got the idea to do this play out of a casual conversation between friends one day. “We were discussing about how all of us have a compulsion to keep saying that if we did not have certain responsibilities, we would have done this or that,” he says. “To do or not to do is a choice, especially in a democracy. There is nobody holding us back.” By coincidence he happened to read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at that time and realised that every character had to make decisions and deal with the consequences.

Like in the original version, Prashant's play has the recurrent theme of fate and choice. “I wanted to show that our destiny is not defined by our stars, but by our decisions,” says Prashant.

The cast consisted of Rijul Roy, Kalyani Nair, Anshul Pathak, Shashank Purushotham and Christopher Avinash.

In the end, 'No Strings Attached' is a soaring, funny and sometimes poignant look at the way people make choices and the impact it has on them. 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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