A variety of interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays are being essayed on stage the world over during the year of celebrations of his dramatic genius unravelling mysteries of human behaviour particularly in relation to others. ASTHA presented Atul Kumar’s Khwab-Sa, which is his adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at Pt Dindayal Upadhyay Auditorium last Friday. It has all the ingredients to be as successful as, but essentially different from, his Piya Behurupiya, which commendably adapted The Twelfth Night thematically and became a tribute to the playwright.
In his early romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare treats the theme of love with the delicacy the fine sentiment deserves. Not that the physical aspect of love is not reflected here, as in some of his other plays, but the playwright expresses the flitting lyricism of the sentiment that transcends physicality. In the very opening scene, Lysander describes love as ‘momentary as a sound’ and ‘brief as the lightning’. Under the spell of love juice, before Titania swears her love to the ass-headed Bottom, she says how enamoured her ear is of his note and how enthralled her eye to his shape! The Queen of the fairies commends her tiny attendants to wait upon him and lead him to her bower.
The play opens on rustic turbaned young and not so young crude untrained actors – those playing the roles are talented – speaking an invented gibberish Hindi (Saurabh Nayyar) of a delightful colloquial rhythmic pattern, who would look uncomfortable without their long staff, as sturdy as they themselves look. Among them the most interesting is Bottom, a weaver, on whom Puck later puts an ass’s head. Partly comprehensible, partly not, they are a good counterpart to Shakespeare’s original Mechanicals rehearsing ‘Pyramus and Thisby’.
As they recede, Shakespeare’s magic world, adapted for Khwab-sa, unfolds, as if conjured up with a wand. It includes fairies, their king Oberon and queen Titania, who have quarrelled. In the centre of the main plot are two pairs of young lovers of the human world, whose course of love, like the one anywhere anytime in the real world never does run smooth. Both Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Hermia, who loves Lysander. It is Helena who loves Demetrius. The complications are confounded further and resolved by Puck, a character light as air that can ‘make a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes’! He (Ronita Mookerji) is the one who magically connects the real and the supernatural worlds.
The fairy King and Queen burst into irresistible strains of classical music. As for the treatment of the theme central in Shakespeare, it is the diction and its rhythm and resonance that express the magic that love is. Suggestion is the hallmark of any art, not prosaic explicitness. Shakespeare has lived across centuries and will live for many more because of the subtly expressive verbal art he has mastered. Silences built into the rich dialogue take on shades of meaning, too. Celebrated Shakespearian actors delight in approximating to the highest level of achievement their controlled action and speech are capable of.
Khwab-Sa seeks to treat the theme of love, along with Puck’s pranks, through non-verbal contemporary dance choreography (Diya Naidu), which certainly is elegant. So is the electronic music (Anurag Shanker) provided live. Competent light designs highlight the spectacle as also get it subdued where necessary. The choreography, however, fully concentrates on the gross with an elaborate depiction of violent physical relationship, and allows the poetry of love to dry up.
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