My interview with Tushar Pandey
The Hindi adaptation of Evgeny Shvarts’ Russian play, The Dragon will be staged in the city on April 5. Directed by Tushar Pandey, the play holds a magnifying glass to the socio-political changes taking place in the society, says Ambika Shaligram.
Banned by the Post-War Stalin government for its anti-authoritarian theme, Russian playwright Evgeny Shvarts’ biting satire is spun out of myth and lore. The central character is a big, bad dragon who has ruled a town for 400 years and now he has set his eyes on the town’s loveliest maidens, when enters the ‘knight in shining armour’. The ‘knight’ is a well-travelled young man who is on a mission to save the town and rescue the damsel from her tragic plight. But there’s just one problem. The townsfolk don’t want to be saved!
Translated from English into Hindi by Harsh Khurana, the adaptation will be staged by the students of The Drama School, Mumbai, in association with Mumbai Marathi Sangha. Directed by Tushar Pandey, a graduate of National School of Drama and London International School for Performing Arts, The Dragon touches upon various inter-related concepts like leadership, power and the mechanics of their working. The concepts are universal and timeless in their pertinence.
Fantasy vs reality
Shvarts turned to fairy tales as a narrative tool for his play. Pandey didn’t make any departure from this aspect. But, he did change the treatment and style of the play.
Says he, “Yes I did change the treatment / style of the play; but it was not done to suit Indian audience more. Rather, I find this style more engaging and expressive. The focus of the whole play, according to me, is the townspeople and chorus (which are not present in the original text), and what they bring to the story in terms of the concept. This is what I’ve tried to build on.”
The fairy tales are set in the world of fantasy, fiction, imagination — a perfect medium to highlight the brutalities of power play. When asked if that makes fairy tales a convenient tool to dish out unpalatable truths, Pandey says, “Definitely, fairy tales do create a very conducive world in which one can say anything, and yet stay distant from the action. Shvarts used them to express the dynamics of leadership. I did find the fantasy in Shvarts writing most engaging. But my world in the play wrestles between fantasy and today’s time.”
He explains that some issues are best dealt in the style which places the audience not in the centre, but away, so that they can look at an issue objectively. By making use of myths and folktales, the writer or the director achieves just that.
“In the case of The Dragon, Shvarts had no choice but to write in fairy tale format, for the time that he lived in, didn’t allow him to write in any other style,” says Pandey adding that the main change he has brought into the production is the note on which the play ends.
“Shvarts’ writing in a specific time and period, brings closure. I’ve interpreted the script to leave on a more uncertain note. This is mainly done in the third act, which is not just different performatively, but also conceptually. The current script is also technically twice removed from the original — it’s a Hindi translation of an English translation of a Russian script. And I think that’s also quite interesting as a process as far as adapting through translation goes,” he concludes.