Acclaimed Bollywood filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj is excited about his debut stage production, which premiered in Paris this week. ‘A Flowering Tree’, an opera based on a classic Indian folk tale by famous Kannada writer and scholar AK Ramanujan, will be on at the city’s Le Chatelet theatre until May 13.
“The entire experience has opened a whole new window in my mind. Staging is something I have worked on for the first time and I was excited like a little kid,” said 48-year-old Bhardwaj, who directed the opera set to a musical score by composer and conductor John Adams.
“The story revolves around just three main characters – a prince, a girl called Kumudha, and the narrator. Within that we tried to explore a number of creative elements like using the choir as props and puppets by Dadi Pudumjee. The sets are very minimalist and it is through movements that we are able to convey a sense of space,” added the ‘Omkara’ director.
The two-act opera was first commissioned as part of the Vienna New Crowned Hope Festival to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and uses Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ as its model.
“It is a magical tale of a girl transforming into a flowering tree. The ethos and soul of the production is very Indian. Folk tales have their own charm and tackle major themes but in a very subtle way,” said Bhardwaj, who was in London during a break from rehearsals to complete mixing a song for his upcoming Bollywood release ‘Haider’.
The song titled, ‘Khul Kabhi Toh’, is a haunting ode to strife-torn Kashmir, where the film has been shot.
“I have tried to make a very authentic film about Kashmir. The local population was initially quite hesitant because they have been really hurt. They feel Bollywood has never really represented their pain and trauma.
“But as word spread about the kind of film we were shooting, we were really made to feel welcome and constantly invited into homes for cups of tea,” said the writer-director-musician, who will complete his Shakespearean trilogy with ‘Haider’ – which is an adaptation of ‘Hamlet’.
It follows ‘Maqbool’ (2003), adapted from ‘Macbeth’, and ‘Omkara’ (2006) which was based on ‘Othello’.
“Hamlet is the most tragic of Shakespeare’s plays and Kashmir is the biggest human tragedy. I could not have found a better setting for this story. I have genuinely tried to tell their (local Kashmiris) story and portray their pain. Kashmir is like a character in itself in this film,” said Bhardwaj in reference to the film which stars Shahid Kapoor in the lead and is set for release on October 2.
He also confirmed toying with the idea of a sequel to his 2009 box-office hit ‘Kaminey’, which will be titled ‘Maha Kaminey’ and could see Shahid Kapoor reprise his double role as Guddu and Charlie.
“Shahid is very excited but I am still thinking about it. A part of me wonders why not explore whole new characters. Then another part feels there could be scope for a whole new set of villains with ‘Maha Kaminey’ and villains are always more interesting to write,” said Bhardwaj.