This Indian web series interprets Romeo and Juliet as a gay couple
Director Nupur Asthana is interpreting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for a new web show. In her version, the star-crossed lovers happen to be men.HT48HRS_Special Updated: Apr 13, 2017 18:36 IST
Much like her previous work — the cult TV show Hip Hip Hurray (1998-2001), and the movies Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge (2011) and Bewakoofiyaan (2014) — director Nupur Asthana (44) is charming and candid. We meet her at her Versova apartment at 11am. She confesses that she has never decked up for any shoot so early in the morning. She is yet to have her morning cup of tea, and insists we join her. Asthana is surviving on tea these days, as she is busy wrapping up the post-production of her debut web series, Romil and Jugal. It’s a one-of-a-kind take on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, with homosexual protagonists.
“Two of my friends, Anu Menon and Ishita Moitra, wrote the script in 2014. Back then, the Supreme Court had decriminalised homosexuality. When they later revoked the decision, we didn’t think the censors would let a film like this pass. Luckily, the web is less tricky,” says Asthana, who is back to direction after a break of three years.
Producer Ekta Kapoor and Asthana were in talks for a couple of years to make the film. And when Kapoor planned to launch her VOD (Video on Demand) platform, ALTBalaji, they knew they had found their medium of expression. “The timing is perfect considering it’s also Shakespeare’s birth and death month,” says Asthana. Exploring the web is just another step in her two-decade-long career in storytelling. From TV shows, to feature-length films, Asthana has tried her hand at everything.
However, she does find the medium of web series challenging. “When it’s a film, the story flows and doesn’t require breaks. But, when you have episodes, it requires more structure. So, in terms of writing, it was a challenge to bring the whole chapter feel to it. But some stories [like this one] lend themselves wonderfully to the format,” she says.
Over the years, Asthana admits that she has also experienced a sea of change in how women are treated on the set. Back in the ’90s, after doing a PG diploma in mass communication from Sophia Polytechnic, Asthana assisted director Ketan Mehta on Oh Darling Yeh Hai India (1995). She looks back at the experience, and says that she was the only woman on the sets, apart from the actress and the hairdresser. In order to blend in, she would dress up as androgynously as possible.
“I had become one of them to such an extent that once Ketan, while giving orders, looked at our general direction [where the Assistant Directors were standing], and yelled abuses. Later, he apologised saying that he didn’t realise there was a girl there,” says Asthana.
However, she says things have now changed for the better — from DOPs to casting directors, women are part of every stage of the process. “I am happy to be working during such liberal times in the industry,” she says.
Watch Romil and Jugal, a 10-part web series on ALTBalaji. It will launch on April 16.