The kick-starter play of the Metro Plus Theatre Fest.
Here’s our festival MC, Vijay Marur going at it :-)
Antigone. A play I had read a hundred times. Followed through from the strange backdrop that Oedipus gives it. Lived through the agony of unsuspecting incest. And kinda understood the dilemma that Creon faced.
And finally when I watched its stage adaptation, it was Motley’s.
No regrets mind you, it was nice. But somewhere along the line I got googlied by the Indianisation, got stumped by the localisation and bowled over by the desification.
So here I was, looking at my old hero Benjamin Gilani strutting around the stage in a toga inspired kaftan look-alike costume which incorporated a dupatta. Pontificating. Moving from spot light position A to spot B but managing, in my opinion to be nothing but a mere shadow of what I used to imagine he was. Well that’s one more Hero Worship ritual that’s ended.
Ratna was, well Ratna. A combination of her real life persona, her TV character (I can’t quite remember the name) and a strange interpretation of what she must have imagined an agony aunt called Antigone should look like and behave.
Kenny was wonderful. As the Chief Guard he bonded with his hipflask, flirted well enough with his pack of cards. And celebrated his neck saving performance with elan.
But when Naseer, the great Naseeruddin Shah came onto stage that’s when the magic truly hit the roof. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it in the beginning. But as he came onto stage for the nth time, it hit me. Naseer, the inimitable had hit upon a formula that needs to be documented, even patented.
Well see, the problem with Indians doing English theatre has always been that we are a mess when it comes to accents. Either we, each one of us, puts on this horrible Oxford/Cambridge stiff British Upper Lipper, or we drawl into a pseudo Stanford/Yale/Texas meets Arkansas brogue that would put America’s Irish ancestors to shame. And God forbid if we sounded like Nathuram Godse with his Bharatiya.
Now Naseer, the NSD grad did something amazing…he did a Tussaud’s with a Dilip Kumar/ Amitabh Bachan statue. Spoke like himself, Parsi English and all, but intoned like Prithvi Raj Kapoor. Now no Creon in the world ever spoke like that I tell you, but in this attempt to give his own role a signature tune, Naseer obviously has stumbled onto a fabulous formula.
As people involved with strange occupations like Accent Neutralization etc., we have learnt that Indiians speak English the way they do because the language that makes their backend run is something called Vernacular. So when the English garbage is force fed into the processors in the form of data what comes out as output is fermented English. Spoken sing song, with appropriate nodding of the head and so on. You get the picture?
So how do we avoid caricaturing ourselves? We don’t! We just look for inspiration in our history, in our heritage. As Naseer did.
And voila! The English sounds like Prithviraj was born into it. Like you were weaned on it. I must try this soon. Except maybe I shall use NTR as my role model.