Stage to screen

Marathi plays are now getting wider audiences as they get adapted for the silver screen

Chicago, Frost/Nixon, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Bronx Tale, Dial M for Murder. What do these movies have in common? They are all considered classic movies, and have all been adapted from famous plays. English theatres and movies have traditionally exchanged ideas, subjects and projects. The same trend now seems to be shifting to Marathi theatre and cinema, with the making of stage-to-film adaptions such as Badam Rani Ghulam Chor, Nava Gadi Nava Rajya and Shrimant Damodar Pant.

Producer Shekhar Kulkarni and director Satish Rajwade had watched the successful Marathi play, Makdachya Hati Champagne in Pune, and both suddenly realised that the plot of the play would make for a good movie. They approached playwright Vivek Bele who agreed to adapt the story into a movie screenplay. From there, the transformation of Makdachya Hati Champagne into the film, Badam Rani Ghulam Chor was easy, and the film was released in July, this year. The story draws parallels between two separate plots in the first, two friends attempt to woo one girl, while in the other, two politicians battle it out to win the voters' favour. In both the sub-plots, the two contestants are egged on by representatives of the media to hilarious effect. "This concept of the two parallel stories was what had fascinated us about the play. The story is the hero here and we were convinced that the concept would be portrayed even better in a film without the location and scene constraints that a staged performance has," says Rajwade.

According to Rajwade, the playwright, Vivek Bele was pleased about the adaption and has worked on the screenplay and script for the movie himself. Shrimant Damodar Pant (2004) a dramatic comedy about the lives of people traveling together on a bus - is now being adapted by Kedar Shinde, who will write and direct the new version. Nava Gadi Nava Rajya too, is being adapted by the same writer-director team of Kshitij Patwardhan and Samir Viddans. Actor Umesh Kamat, who has worked on both the play and the film, says, "The film is about a newly married couple and the tensions, misunderstandings and insecurities that they face. The story has humour, drama and entertainment; that is what made it a hit play and that is why it will make a good film also."

But how the does the audience perceive these adaptions? While a regular movie has the advantage of suspense and new plot, these movies are all adaptions of hit plays and their storylines are well known. "The essence is the same; it is a bit like making a remake of a film. That is why people who liked the play will watch the movie also. But, the film is quite different from the play at the same time. New characters have been added to introduce humour and there are new aspects and twists to the plot as well," says Kamat of Nava Gadi Nava Rajya, which is expected to realease early next year.

These film adaptions often use some of the cast that the original plays used. In Badam Rani Ghulam Chor for instance, only one from the original cast has been retained Anand Ingle, who plays the role of the makad or the friend from the media, in the story. "We decided to bring him in the movie as well because nobody else could have done the role more justice," says director Rajwade. In Nava Gadi Nava Rajya, actors Umesh Kamat and Priya Bapat reprise their roles in the film, while the rest of the cast has been changed.

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