Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet in new Avtaar

Ayushman Jamwal
They say love is a wise madness and there is no more poignant tribute to that beautiful and terrifying emotion than William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Never was there a story of more woe than of Juliet and Romeo, and Natrang’s  director Aarushi Thakur Rana captured that emotional tempest in her own vision of the Bard’s fabled play.  As part of the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust’s ‘Innovation In Art’ initiative, the Natrang troupe showcased the play in Jammu and Chandigarh and left audiences mesmerised with smiles and tears. Set in a medieval sultanate, the play is a cocktail of riveting drama and spellbinding music. Gautam Kumar as Friar Lawrence and Goutam Sharma as Romeo are the two standout performances from Aarushi Thakur Rana’s adaptation of the play.
Gautam Kumar dons the avatar of a medicine man who longs for an end to the feud between the warring families and for Romeo and Juliet’s love to prevail over the hatred. Gautam brings poise and humility to the simple yet pivotal character and makes it tremble with the vulnerability of hope. Goutam Sharma as Romeo brings a youthful flair to his portrayal of a young man falling in love. The spirited nature of his character is only layered by the helpless, soul-crushing longing he expresses for Juliet after the critical scene when he murders her brother Tybalt.
Aarushi Thakur Rana’s portrayal of that face-off keeps you on the edge of your seat, when the aggression and malice between the Montagues and Capulets is unleashed in a brawl, with the lights and music invading your senses, keeping your eyes glued to the stage till Romeo thrusts that killer blow. In the original play, a broken Romeo says, “What have I done but murder my tomorrow.” Goutam Sharma elevates that line in his own style, portraying a defeated man clinging to life, exiled  far away from his beloved. Two character concepts though lack what Shakespeare’s original play offered. Shivam Sharma as Tybalt expertly portrays his contempt for Romeo and his inability to control his temper, but it lacks the arrogance of the character, his fury fuelled by the shame he feels over his sister’s relationship. In the original play, Tybalt cries out to Romeo before their duel “Come settle with me, Boy”.
That same bravado and disdain is missing in the portrayal.
Vrinda Sharma as Juliet brings forward the romance and angst that consumes her character. She beautifully depicts being torn between Romeo, her family and the loss of her brother, but the obsessive quality of her love for Romeo is absent.
Her will to die in the play comes out of a sense of deep sadness instead of a conviction to refuse to live in a world without the man she loves. A poised edge layered with fanaticism would have added a special nuance to her portrayal. Juliet should always be defiant, not depressed.
An immortal tale and a refreshing perspective – that’s the simple line by which I would describe Aarushi Thakur Rana’s production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. A thrilling tribute to the greatest English playwright, where each actor breathes new life into the characters in their own unique way.
It is a visual treat of light, sound and drama for anyone looking for a production to pull at their heart strings, executed by a young and talented cast and crew. The play is yet another commendable homage to the Bard’s timeless tales by Aarushi Thakur Rana and her troupe.