'Shakespeare’s plays relevant even today, but adaptation is no child's play'

Geetanjali Kulkarni plays the lead in 'Piya Behrupiya', a musical comedy based on Shakespeare’s 'Twelfth Night'. The actress feels the plays “demand a lot of temperament management"

Geetanjali Kulkarni
Geetanjali Kulkarni
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Garima Sadhwani

Actor Geetanjali Kulkarni of Gullak fame got on board Piya Behrupiya because she wanted to work with director Atul Kumar. But the crew, the chance to perform at The Globe and working in an adaptation of a Shakespearean play also lured her.

The immensely successful play has been staged in India and abroad for several years and is now streaming as a teleplay on Zee Theatre. Based on William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the play tells the story of a brother-sister duo, who get separated in a shipwreck.

Landing in a world of thugs, the sister disguises herself as a man, starts working for the king as a messenger, and ends up falling in love with him. Kulkarni excitedly shares, “The story takes a lot of exciting twists and turns because the king’s love interest falls for the messenger, who is a woman in reality.”

But while the play itself may be centuries old, the actor feels its themes are relevant even today. The emotions, the characters, are also very diverse and yet relatable to audiences across barriers. Says she, “Love, enmity and guilt are all still part of modern stories. The beauty of languages and verses stands out from the rest.”

A freeform musical play, the cast spent around two months practising the songs, participating in residential workshops, and rehearsing together. They watched a ton of films based on Shakespearean dramas as they tried to figure out “the relevance and flow of scenes”.

While dressing up and acting like a man was a challenge for Kulkarni, the experience was one to cherish, as she shares how much fun she had on the sets.


Kulkarni adds that since plays are repeatedly performed over time, they “demand a lot of temperament management because we have to go along the scenes as written in the script, we cannot shift their timings.”

To work in an adaptation, one has to be familiar with the original text and context of what one is working with, feels Kulkarni. She talks about how the cast read the original plays in the contemporary and Victorian languages, to better understand the objectives and intentions of each scene, and then improvised it in their own way to add their own nuances.

Says she, “Adapting the contemporary tone to a freeform manner was easy and difficult at the same time. I feel the whole credit goes to Amitosh’s translation and Atul’s direction.”

(Piya Behrupiya is streaming on Zee Theatre)

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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