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Home / Art and Culture / Agatha Christie for an Indian audience

Agatha Christie for an Indian audience

Directed by Melly Still, and with actors such as Shernaz Patel, Sonali Kulkarni and Denzil Smith, Mirror Crack’d is going to be grand

art-and-culture Updated: Jan 24, 2020 16:34 IST
Sanskrita Bharadwaj
Sanskrita Bharadwaj
A still from the rehearsal
A still from the rehearsal

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, an iconic detective fiction, written by Agatha Christie was adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Rachel Wagstaff, who has also adapted Paula Hawkins’s The Girl On The Train, among others. The play was directed by theatre-director and designer Melly Still. Now, re-contextualised for the first time, for an Indian audience, by writer Ayeesha Menon, the play will be staged at the NCPA.

Still, who is also directing this Indian version, says she came to India last year and spent some time meeting people to find out what they thought about the story and if it would be an interesting prospect to reimagine it for an Indian audience. She also believes that all of Christie’s stories spoke of the socio-political times she was living in. “Everyone seemed to be excited about the idea and that’s why we went ahead with it. I asked people I knew and met, if the story were to be made in India, where and when should it be made because it needed to have that social background,” Still says.

Set in 1976, the mystery revolves around a fading Bollywood actor Mamta (Sonali Kulkarni) hosting a dinner party at her villa in Goa, following a drinks session, the night ends in a murder. “This is the first time I am getting to work with such a fantastic crew. It didn’t feel like we were in rehearsals but it felt more like an acting workshop. All the actors discovered the script together. We spoke about each other’s characters and it wasn’t about mugging up lines. Our director is extremely frank and sincere. She had done this play earlier but she wanted to explore the play with us all over again,” says Sonali, who has acted in numerous plays and films.

Shernaz Patel, who will be playing a house-bound Miss Mistry (the Indian Miss Marple) says the story is not about “who did what”, but “one gets to know a lot about each individual character.” Talking about her own character, Shernaz says, “Miss Mistry is a 76-year-old spinster. The world looks and perceives her as a spinster. She is extremely well-travelled, bright and intelligent. She loves solving murders, it gives her a new lease on life. She is also grappling with ageing. She is vulnerable but at the same time has this ability to go about solving mysteries by understanding what people are like. It’s about the emotional ability to unmask and unravel people which she has, and playing that has been rewarding and satisfying.”

Actor Shernaz Patel during a rehearsal session
Actor Shernaz Patel during a rehearsal session

Actor Denzil Smith, who plays Superintendent of Police Daniel D’Mello, emphasises on how this traditional whodunnit tries to focus on the ‘why’ as much as the ‘who’. “Agatha Christie has always been relevant and people seem to enjoy the whodunnit as a genre and nobody better than Christie who epitomises it,” he says.

Then, does Mirror Crack’d makes sense in an Indian context? Kulkarni is of the belief that the play is a very clean Indian adaptation. “We are all Indian actors with an Indian accent, you will not smell anything foreign in this adaptation,” she says. Shernaz is of the opinion that a Bollywood actor might move to Goa to pursue a quiet life.

Smith says, “A good story is eternal. If the story is good structurally, it can be set anywhere, and this is one of those stories.”

More Info:

What: Mirror Crack’d

Where: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point

When: January 30 to February 9, at 7.30pm.