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Sunday , November 20 , 2011
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Danish Snow Queen in Indian avatar

Chennai-based Anupama Chandrasekhar, a journalist who used to work for The Hindu Business Line, put in for a play-writing workshop held in Mumbai by the Royal Court Theatre in London.

One of her tutors was Carl Miller, who subsequently moved to the Unicorn, a children’s theatre in London, as associate director and literary manager.

When he decided to stage a new version of The Snow Queen, Han Christian Andersen’s much loved fairytale of good versus evil, set in the northern reaches of Denmark, he remembered the talented girl he had met in Mumbai.

How would she adapt The Snow Queen?

Anupama had not even seen snow until she went to America 10 years ago but she tells me her response was: “Hans Andersen set it in a very white world; since I don’t live in a white world, it was not something I could relate to, so I said I would set it in India.”

The commission was hers.

She enthuses: “I love Andersen, I love mythology, I love fairytales and I love Indian folktales.”

Anupama, who has been in London for several weeks she is missing Chennai because the November nights are getting chilly is frantically helping at rehearsals before The Snow Queen opens, with a largely British Asian cast, on November 23.

It is obviously risky, tampering with traditional fare at Christmas, but British theatre prides itself on being both experimental and cutting-edge.

Would we like it if the Mahabharata was played as a battle between two banks in the City of London with the warriors dressed in pin stripe suits and bowler hats and wielding pointed umbrellas? (Come to think of it...)

Anupama’s version is certainly imaginative. The Snow Queen remains the Snow Queen though she now resides in the Himalayas and is a “war widow who is not completely evil”. The boy and girl, Kai and Gerda, become Kumar and Gowri. When Kumar disappears in a freak snowstorm in south India, Gowri begins her rescue mission from her home in Kanyakumari and travels through Kerala, Mumbai (excuse for Bollywood dancing) and Chambal Valley (dacoits) on her way north.

After working with director Rosamunde Hutt, Carl Miller as dramaturg, set designer Sophia Lovell Smith, clarinettist and composer Arun Ghosh, choreographer Ash Mukherjee, and cast members including Amaka Okafor (Gowri), an actress of Nigerian and Indian descent, Nimmi Hamasgara (Snow Queen) and Ashley Kumar (Kumar), Anupama confides: “The result is beyond my expectations.”

And she adds: “I hope The Snow Queen travels. I really hope it comes to India.”

Gown glory

British evening fashion goes from raunchy red carpet wear to elegant ball gowns the latter are to be the subject of an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum next year.

Scarcely an evening passes in London without a premiere for a film, musical or play, or a high profile function and without photographers lining the red carpet. These are occasions when women “celebrities” from the world of modelling and reality television teeter in on high heels wearing outfits designed to catch the attention of the snappers.

At the premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 in London last week, Lauren Pope, an “English glamour model” wore a daringly slit red dress that got her into the tabloids.

Mission accomplished.

“If Lauren Pope wanted to show her ex-boyfriend exactly what he’s missing then this dress is perfect,” bitched a tabloid hackette. “But she also very nearly managed to show everyone else too in a very saucy red dress.”

At the other end of the British fashion industry, worth 21 billion, are the elegant ball gowns. They are worn to charity balls, Bafta ceremonies or Oscar nights in LA.

The V&A has announced that it will celebrate the opening of its renovated Fashion Galleries next year with “an exhibition of beautiful ball gowns, red carpet evening dresses and catwalk showstoppers. Displayed over two floors, Ball gowns: British Glamour Since 1950 will feature more than 60 designs for social events such as private parties, royal balls, state occasions and opening nights”.

It so happens that ball gowns have become exceedingly popular in London with rich Indian women of whom there are many.

Roebuck clue

There is a link between the death of the distinguished English cricket correspondent, Peter Roebuck, and the plight of the British Indian businessman, Shrien Dewani.

It is in the behaviour of the Cape Town police.

Roebuck fell to his death last week from his sixth floor room at the Southern Sun Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town. It has been confirmed that a detective and a uniformed police officer from the sexual crimes unit were in the room with him.

So the questions that need asking are: did Roebuck jump, did the police say or do something which made him jump or was he pushed?

Dewani, a British Indian businessman, faces extradition to Cape Town where the police have already declared he is guilty of conspiring to have his wife Anni killed during their honeymoon in South Africa last November.

Judging by what happened to Roebuck, Dewani’s prospects of getting a fair trial, once he falls into the clutches of the same Cape Town police, are not bright.

Dan Newling, a freelance British journalist in Cape Town who has been on top of the story from the start, inclines to the view that Dewani is being framed because South Africa wants to protect its tourism industry by showing Anni’s death was not one of the thousands of random killings that take place in the country every year.

Rover pays

Ratan Tata, usually a modest man, should be forgiven if perchance he stands in front of his bathroom mirror in his Mumbai flat this morning and murmurs admiringly: “The name’s Tata Ratan Tata.”

His gamble in buying ailing Jaguar Land Rover from Ford of America for $2.3 billion in 2008 appears to be paying off.

The word now is that “a Range Rover Evoque and a Jaguar have been delivered to the set of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, which is being filmed at Pinewood Studios at the moment. It’s said they are for a London car chase.”

Down to earth

Vijay Mallya is not the only one who finds it difficult to run a profitable airline. More than 180 passengers, mainly Indians, returning to Birmingham from Amritsar last week on cash strapped Comtel Air, an Austrian charter airline, were told at Vienna airport: “Pay 20,000 in cash or we dump you all here with your baggage.”

After a six-hour standoff, the furious passengers were frogmarched to cash points and made to pay up.

Tittle tattle

Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammed Asif, who have been moved from the cell they shared in Wandsworth prison in south London, where they apparently felt unsafe, to a jail in Canterbury, Kent, happily want to return to the game.

At Wandsworth when they requested a bat and a ball, only a tennis ball was given. The bat was refused by prison authorities on the grounds it could be used as an “offensive weapon”.

Not if there is money on a defensive shot being played.

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