“Piya Behrupiya” director Atul Kumar on performing translations and why he loves Shakespeare
The Company Theatre from Mumbai is bringing the Hindi edition of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Piya Behrupiya, to Delhi next week. According to its director Atul Kumar, the play has a “strong Indian folk leaning” even though it is a translation, not an adaptation. It was translated by Amitosh Nagpal, who plays Sebastian in the play. “We believe in translations more than adaptations actually. It keeps the basic flavour of the play alive without corrupting it, unless of course it is an outright devised work ‘based’ on the original, in which case you take a flight in a completely new direction any which way,” said Kumar.
His method of directing a translation well is not going too much into the “cultural specificity and extract an overall essence of each scene, or else it can be alienating.” He confessed that there’s always the fear “of not connecting with the audience, of completely making a mess of the original text and the world of the play, but then that is the fear always with everything.”
The Company Theatre won praise for its performance of Piya Behrupiya at the World Shakespeare Festival in London in April. “People stood in the open, as it rained in complete cold, and did not leave and came back in the same numbers after the interval. They sang with us, clapped, waved and danced with our actors and singers. It was quite a riot. The amazing thing was it was an 80 per cent non-Hindi speaking audience and they still enjoyed it thoroughly. I presume, because they knew Shakespeare’s text inside out,” said Kumar.
He said there are a variety of ways Shakespeare is performed these days. “It is done in pantomime, in mime, also as puppets, as dance, and in theatre all this merges with words or without.”
Shakespeare in India, he said, “is always a super hit,” adding there is a lot of Shakespeare here in different languages, forms and levels. “Not only because his name draws the audience towards high passion but also because Shakespeare’s tales and human conditions are quite timeless, space-less and cultureless — they are simply human.”
The Company Theatre is no stranger to Delhi, said Kumar, who has staged plays here for over a decade. “Especially this play, since it is in Hindi and with a Punjabi leaning, it will be fun. It is a musical comedy and Delhi loves that, we have seen (in the past).”