The Mumbai theatre circuit has been witness to several Shakespeare adaptations over the years. In 1977, veteran Alyque Padamsee drew parallels between Julius Caesar and former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A few years back, Hamlet was a clown in director Rajat Kapoor’s The Clown Prince. Now, we’re set for yet another eccentric adaptation, with the character of Shylock (from The Merchant of Venice) played by a woman. In Reth – Songs of the Sand, directed by Dr Satyabrata Rout, the three witches from Macbeth will use witchcraft to bring Shylock to life. And all the action will unfold in the deserts of Rajasthan.
The role of Shylock will be essayed by singer Shweta Shetty (47), who was a pop sensation back in the ’90s. Most ’90s kids will remember her foot-tapping hits, including Johnny Joker and Deewane toh deewane hai. The St Xavier’s graduate was also actively involved in theatre with Pearl Padamsee. However, all this was over two decades ago. Shetty, who had relocated to Hamburg, Germany, towards the late 90s, returned to the city in 2015. “When I returned to Mumbai, I wanted to develop this musical I had in mind. When I met Ashvin (Gidwani; producer-director), he asked me to put that on the back-burner and play Shylock instead. I was taken aback,” Shetty says.
The opera-meets-Rajasthani folk show has over 25 actors and nearly 100 set changes. Rajasthani folk music, which is composed by Amod Bhatt, sets the tone of the play. But Shetty did lend her musical expertise and composed a couple of operatic songs for the performance. “People here assume that opera only means somebody screaming. I want to acquaint the young audience with world music,” says Shetty.
However, the performance is largely an adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. The only connection it has with Macbeth is the three witches, who open the performance. After the opening run at NCPA next week, the team is planning to take the play to Bangkok, Chennai, and Dubai.
Reth – Songs Of The Sand will be staged on November 5 and 6, at 7.30pm
At: Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Tickets: Rs 500 onward on bookmysow.com/plays