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‘Bloody funny’ take on the Bard

‘Bloody funny’ take on the Bard

At the rehearsals of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged). Picture by Pabitra Das

News has just come in. Zimbabwe, after 30 overs is on 106/6. So you can relax and watch the show.” From that moment, you just had to love ’em.

That a match update would work its way into The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) was evidence enough that only unprecedented mirth and utter mayhem could follow. The sets of urban graffiti, which greet the audience at GD Birla Sabhagar, prepare the audience for an unconventional take. But nothing could be warning for the two hours of side-splitting entertainment that the three-man ensemble of Tim and Berynn Schwerdt and Ezra Bix would bring.

Juliet dances to You are my Sonia (not to the Spice Girls’ If you wanna be my lover as in the Aussie version) and is pale not because she has passed out but because she uses Fair & Lovely. The treacherous king and queen puppets of the play within a play in Hamlet get down and dirty to Ek do teen. Shades of Tu Pac and Eminem are befitting the murdering ‘brother’ Othello. The terrors of crossing Theatre Road, Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khana Khazana and Jism are thrown in, measure for measure. Only as bizarre as the very concept of trying to squeeze 37 plays into 97 minutes.

And that, of course, is bunkum. The histories are clumped into one hilarious slow-motion sequence of Australian rules football tracing genealogies and murders dating back centuries in a few moments. The comedies are quickly disposed of as well, though all are paid homage to in a farcical sketch featuring three pairs of identical twins and numerous cases of mistaken identity. Then it is back to the tragedies, because, as can only be expected, they are “a lot bloody funnier”. The play opens with a significant section on Romeo and Juliet (with variations like ‘A nose by any other name would still smell’), Hamlet is the core of Act II.

This is a play, as producer Phil Bathols — who plans to bring more productions to India — points out, about three guys trying to put together a play. The curtains come up with the spotlight on a chair with a bulky volume of the (real) Bard’s complete works. Ezra and Berynn pseudo-seriously pronounce their lofty aims of educating an audience and a generation that “doesn’t know Shakespeare from Shania Twain”, that has been “nullified by Nintendo and lulled by Lloyd Webber”. Tim, sitting in the audience, plays the part of the ignorant spectator, before taking his many roles on stage.

Much depends on the feedback from the audience. The players run through the auditorium, Tim pukes on those seated in the first row on many an occasion, the last segment involves two unsuspecting people being dragged on stage — one to play Ophelia and the other her id. “The audience plays the role of the fourth character in this play,” explains Berynn, dressed the part of the Shakespearean hero, apart from the “aesthetic” choice to footwear — Converse sneakers. In the first show in the city on Wednesday, Ophelia did not stop laughing for a minute, and even tried to run off stage. They had the rest of the audience shouting absurdities like “Cut the crap Hamlet. My biological clock is ticking and I want babies now”.

“Some are born with the Bard. Some achieve the Bard. Some have the Bard thrust upon them,” proclaimed the evangelists of “Willie”. Though there was very little of the Bard present in The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), it didn’t take much preaching to make Calcutta’s crowd believers.

Just Rinke

She’s an actress, a beauty editor of a magazine, wife of an industry scion and daughter of Dimple Kapadia and Rajesh Khanna. But she likes to be known as just Rinke. “The Khanna doesn’t come into the equation at all,” she smiles. With three films ready for release this year — Mango Souffle, Jhankar Beats and Pran Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaaye — and a fourth, Ek Din Anjana, nearly complete, Twinkle’s sister, who got married two weeks ago, shows no signs of slowing down.

“I love acting, and I like the roles I have been getting,” Rinke says. But shuttling between Mumbai, where she works, Calcutta, where husband Samir Saran is from, and London, where he has his business, seems to come naturally to her. “Hailing from a film family, moving around all the time and staying away from home for long periods is just part of the job,” she adds.

Off-beat films and “girl next door” parts are coming her way at the moment, which Rinke claims is because “I don’t really have the heroine looks”. But playing realistic roles is what she wants, be it a supportive sister or an independent woman going through a divorce (in Jhankar Beats). “I had a few offers for films when I was studying in Boston, but I wanted to finish my graduation. I couldn’t let anything come in the way of that.”

And her hours of writing countless papers and re-reading her classmates work was good practice, as it turns out, for one of her endeavours. Now as beauty editor of Seventeen magazine, which was recently launched in India, she is enjoying the experience. “My English teacher had told me that I should become an editor, and she was right,” she laughs.

What Rinke really wants, though, is to work in Tollywood with Rituparno Ghosh and Aparna Sen. “I met them many years ago through my mother, and we had talked about it, but nothing happened. I would really love to do films with both of them. They only have to ask,” she sums up.

Behind the camera

When the World Trade Center crashed, Shomu Mitra was “shocked”. After all, less than a month ago, her team had shot a music video in front of the twin towers, perhaps the last camera crew to have used the locale. The product of the four-day venture on the Hudson, Jaanam, has been launched in January and its stars, daughter of Mumbai director Anil ‘Kora Kaagaz’ Ganguly, Rupali, of Sanjeevani fame, and golfer Sanjiv Goenka can be seen prancing to choreographer Saroj Khan’s steps on Zee Music, B4U, Tara, ATN and DD.

Other than a view of WTC, Shomu, a budding director-producer in Mumbai at age 26, has also given Bengali television its answer to Mile sur mera tumhara. “I wanted to do something on national integration with our own artistes. The idea appealed to everyone so much that they worked for free,” she says. Bhalobashi Bangla Ma Ke, set to tune by Bappi Lahiri, has a line-up featuring the who’s who of Tollywood — Prasenjit, Rituparna Sengupta, Arjun Chakraborty, Tapas Pal, Rupa Ganguly, Indrani Haldar, Satabdi Roy, Mamata Shankar, Raima Sen and Goutam Ghose. “Goutamda gave lip to Pulakda’s (Bandyopadhyay) song with the others and even helped with the choreography,” she recalls. Sports celebs P.K. Banerjee, Sambaran Banerjee, Ashok Malhotra and Chima Okerie also chipped in. The shooting spanned 65 sites across Bengal. “I canned shots everywhere, from the fields of Birbhum to a bowling alley,” recounts Shomu.

The success of the project, which won Shomu the Kalakar award for best upcoming director, has fetched her offers from Bangladesh. “They want me to do something similar for them.” But what Shomu has set her heart on is a project with Bengalis in Bollywood, about which she is tight-lipped. “I started out here. Bengal is always part of my plans,” smiles the one-time badminton player, whose entry into films was “purely by accident”.

“It was in the early 90s, when the girl who was supposed to play Satabdi’s friend in Kalanka didn’t turn up. All I had gone to do was swing the racquet for a single shot, but was forced into the meaty role,” she recalls. The stint made her take to acting, especially on stage, till the lure of the megaphone took her behind the camera. Success as associate director in Chena Mukh Achena Manush, Dhushar Godhuli and Hothat Ekdin has bolstered her confidence to undertake production and event management as well. “My role model is Eakta Kapoor. If one aims high, only then does one reach somewhere,” Shomu smiles.

The inside story

From light fittings to floor coverings, furnishings to laminates, veneers and wood coatings, furniture accessories, furniture and furnishings to designer linen to bathroom fittings — Interiors 2003, the biggest furniture and interior design exposition in eastern India, has all the latest trends on show.

Organised by the Association of Architects, Builders, Interior Designers and allied business, or ABID, the show (February 20 to 25) is being held at Netaji Indoor Stadium for the fifth year running.

“Interiors 2003 is a melting pot of creative ideas and a landmark event for architects, interior decorators and the home conscious,” says ABID president Atul Bothra. The exhibition has 104 stalls this year, with Truwood, Raunaq, Dorset and Greenply as the principal sponsors.

“The encouraging aspect is that the middle class in Calcutta is no more loath to spending money on interiors. With housing loans easy to get, there is more liquid cash with the house-hunter to do the interiors,” observes Ajit Jain, association vice-president.

The organisers are showcasing a slew of new drifts in interiors this year, including complete automation of bathroom fittings and hand-washers through laser technology, use of fusion glass and a variety of cut glass, besides fibreglass replicas of fashion showpieces and furniture and hardware accessories.

ABID will also host two interactive sessions with the city’s architects and builders during the exhibition.

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