Two Gentlemen in Verona is considered to be William Shakespeare’s first play. It also marks a first for Delhi-based playwright Danish Iqbal. “So far, I had been reading Shakespeare. Now, I was called upon to write a script from his play,” says Iqbal. The adaptation, titled Do Deewane Sheher Mein, will be staged in Delhi today, on the 400th death anniversary of the Bard. A faculty member at Jamia Milia university, Iqbal has been writing plays for more than 20 years and his most famous is Dara Shikoh, directed by MS Sathyu.
Excerpts from an interview:
How did you become a part of this project?
I received a call from filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, asking me to adapt Two Gentlemen in Verona, which is a comic play about men, women, romance and rivalry and has ample opportunities for humour and music.
Two Gentlemen in Verona is a bulky story, with several sub-plots and many characters. How did you work around this?
I felt that Shakespeare was not sure of his craft at this early stage. The play is very chauvinistic and, at times, very offensive. I reduced the characters to two heroes, two heroines and two fathers and did away with the rest.
What is the plot of Do Deewane Sheher Mein?
It is about two boys. Sunil, who is geeky and focused, is off to a conference outside Delhi and his friend, Sahil, who is lighthearted and flirtatious, follows him. Sunil meets a girl and falls in love with her but Sahil, who has a steady girlfriend back in Delhi, also runs after her to spite Sunil. The situation becomes more complicated when Sahil’s girlfriend arrives.
How did you tackle the practice of women disguising as men?
Sahil’s girlfriend disguises as a man in the original play but we made her a sadhu. It seemed more believable, since there are many sadhus around.
Have you referred to current events or situations to place the play in the here and now?
Gender politics is the foundation of the new script. Girls say things such as, ‘You don’t need a boyfriend’. I have also tried to bring out the young generation’s fixation with mobile phones and the internet.