Reimagining Mark Twain’s lecture in Mumbai
In 1896, Mark Twain, the American humourist and author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, visited India as part of a globetrotting tour. He even delivered a talk at Grant Road’s Novelty Theatre.
No records exist of what he said. But 122 years later, that lecture is being reimagined as part of the play, Mark Twain: Live in Bombay!, by Canadian playwright Gabriel Emanuel. …Live in Bombay! premieres in India at Prithvi Theatre on Saturday, directed and performed by Kolkata-based Vinay Sharma.
The play draws from Twain’s writings about his hometown in Mississippi and his observations from travels around the world – all written in the sardonic style that makes his aphorisms and quotes popular even today.
“Twain was near broke at the time and decided to raise money by giving lectures around the world,” Emanuel says. “He explored India for two of the twelve months he was travelling, but the India chapters take up 40% of his travelogue.”
Twain referred to India as the land of dreams and romance and the grandmother of legend. “I think the audience will be amazed at how relevant Twain’s observations remain, particularly in today’s age of fake news,” Emanuel says.
Emanuel is no stranger to the Indian stage. In 2015, he was at Prithvi to watch Naseeruddin Shah’s Motely theatre group perform his play, Einstein. “I was reminded [of Twain’s visit], which resulted in the book, Following the Equator,” he says. “It prompted me to recreate the talk.”
This was a challenge, since the only existing record of the visit is a two-minute silent reel.
Sharma, 56, who is also artistic director at the theatre group, Padatik, says he also did his own research to prepare for the role.
WHAT: Mark Twain: Live in Bombay!
WHERE: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu
WHEN: April 21; 7 pm and 9 pm
COST: Rs 500, tickets are available online