Valentine’s Day – the Romeo and Juliet Way

Mix the Play with Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant

Valentine’s Day, a recent phenomenon in India, has caught the fancy of people especially the youth. February 14 is a day when people express their love to their significant others (and also to their friends, teachers, siblings and parents). Popular Valentine’s Day symbols include flowers, cupid, arrows, love birds, hearts and the colours pink and red.  Restaurants, cinemas, malls and other popular hangout places are packed as couples celebrate the day in togetherness.

Legendary romantic couples down the ages have included Laila-Majnu, Shahjahan- Mumtaz Mahal,  Antony-Cleopatra,  Shirin-Farhad. And of course Romeo and Juliet –  the lead characters from Shakespeare’s tragedy about two young star-crossed lovers. Adapted numerous times for stage, film, musicals and opera it is perhaps the most-filmed play of all time. The most celebrated film versions have been George Cukor‘s multi-Oscar-nominated 1936 productionFranco Zeffirelli‘s 1968 version, and Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 MTV-inspired Romeo + Juliet. The latter two were both, in their time, the highest-grossing Shakespeare films ever.

Romeo and Juliet have become emblems of young lovers and doomed love. Fatefully referred to as “star-cross’d” the stars seem to have predetermined the lovers’ future.  And Indians are the greatest believers in destiny and fate. More than a tragedy, people regard the plot as an emotional melodrama.  So how could Hindi cinema stay far behind from a storyline which offers so many exciting ingredients ?  Still talked about Bollywood adaptations have been Ek Duuje Ke Liye (a cross-cultural romance between a Tamil boy and a Goan girl),  Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  (which introduced  mega star Aamir Khan),  Ishaqzaade (which revolved around  honour killings).   More recently Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulent  “Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram Leela” with current heart throbs Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh was a blockbuster hit.

The timeless story has also been interpreted in modern times using social media inventions. The Royal Shakespeare Company presented a version entitled Such Tweet Sorrow, as an improvised, real-time series of tweets on Twitter and YouTube pictures and video. In the age of  mobile  phones, the story would perhaps have had a modern twist –  Romeo and Juliet would have had location-aware apps telling them of their whereabouts, and thus “the course of true love would have been… more connected” .

Mix the Play with Kalki Koechlin and Adil Hussain

The British Council invites you connect with this fabulous tale of love via an exciting online app called Mix the Play.  You can control the casting, interpretation, setting and music and create your own version of the famous balcony scene.  The platform is intuitive and it is easy to share your creations on social media. Without any prior knowledge of directing or Shakespearean text, you can create your own scene and experience what it feels like to “direct” a scene from a Shakespeare classic. You never know when you may get an opportunity to direct your own play or film in the future. Here’s your training ground. And you can’t go wrong!

Reimagined by well- known theatre director Roysten Abel the classic balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet has been shot in different locations – a modern day café, on a wooden staircase in a theatre, in   a locked room in an old ancestral home. By making a choice of actors, storylines, sets, costumes and music there are 24 ways in which you can “mix” this scene, every permutation and combination leading to an exciting new version.  The cast includes well-known film and theatre actors Adil Hussain, Kalki Koechlin,  Tushar Pandey and Kriti Pant.

You can then upload the scene “directed” by you on Facebook or Twitter and mark it to #ShakespeareLives and #MixThePlay. And  of course you can tag your friends. Come on what are you waiting for ? This could be the most fun way you send your love online to your Valentine!

Written by Vivek Mansukhani

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