Women in short skirts and men in black jackets grooving to Thunder, rock band Imagine Dragons’ high-pitched song, set the tone for William Shakespeare’s most performed play, at Abhimanch Auditorium, National School of Drama (NSD). In its latest adaptation, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, by the second year students of NSD, a
Hindu Romeo meets Juliet from a Muslim household, who is months away from turning 16. They grow to love each other, despite the rivalry between their families, the Montagues and the Capulets.
Directed by Delhi-based playwright Danish Iqbal, 42, known for plays such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Daddy, this one is being staged to thunderous applause and requests for more. Romeo is essayed by Navdeep Singh Thakur, while the character of the friar is the Sufi saint, Maula, played flawlessly by Saquib Shaikh. Ketaki Kulkarni plays Juliet. Against the setting of a haveli, in what could be any Indian city, many floors of a house have been recreated, from which the actors jump in and out. Bikes signal their arrival on the stage with a ‘vroom vroom’ sound, slender steel poles serve as support for dancers or recreate the city’s streets and heart-shaped candies are handed out to the audience.
“Shakespeare was trying to say that love can solve any issue but hatred will only ruin the world. I have tried to send a message of love, rather than support hate,” says Iqbal.
With dialogues of how youngsters “love with their eyes, rather than their hearts”, Iqbal says, “Like in Shakespeare’s time, the young generation today lives in the moment. His text is very relevant in this age of Whatsapp, where anybody can fall in love at any moment and there’s love at first sight.”
Faces from the Northeast make an appearance. Silpi Dutta from Assam shines when playing Romeo’s friend, the hot-headed comic Mercutio. Iqbal chose Dutta to show the softness of Mercutio through her community and how women display the same qualities as men, when it comes to anger. Dutta says she is nowhere close to Mercutio in real life, who fights at the drop of a hat armed with her pistol, threatening of making her enemies dance to her tunes.
About his character Romeo, 25-year-old Thakur from Jabalpur, gives his hero a flavour that connects with the audience. “I always thought Romeo was a big lover but I now realise Romeo is like any other normal boy. The way we love somebody, from initially being attracted to beauty, slowly getting serious, and the anguish; this is just like teenage love.”
At NSD, Bahawalpur House, Delhi, today, at 3.30pm and 6.30 pm. Passes at the venue