A flight of fancy

Classic Retold

A flight of fancy

The students of the Bangalore School of Speech and Drama (BSSD) had the audience in splits with their musical pantomime ‘Alibaba and the Forty Thieves’, staged recently at Chowdaiah Memorial Hall. Director Zulfia Sheikh’s production was a take on the classic tale with a Bangalorean twist.

Featuring a confused

Shivajinagar boy as Ali, his ‘pantomime dame’-esque mother Fellah, a pack of
Bollywood buffs for thieves, and Bubbly — the comically-named pink scooter — along with a cast of many others, the play had slapstick themes with topical undertones.
Zulfia had the task of transforming Stuart Ardern’s script set in London to one that Bangalore audiences could relate to. The play, which she says is entirely
put together by her students in mere five weeks, had a decidedly visible Bangalore influence.

As they mixed fairytales with farce, the notorious characters tickled the packed auditorium pink with their witticisms. Set in the fictional ‘Street of Thousand Scooters’ in Shivajinagar, the story followed a bold, broke and handsome boy named Alibaba, his comically pushy mother and the companion of his adventures, Salma the
servant girl. Joining them was the Lakers-jersey donning American teenager version of a genie. The subplot of the play followed the comic mishaps of a gang of thieves in their Bollywood costumes. They were led by their Sholay-dialogue spouting leader Jabbar, who was lauded by the audience each time he spoke his punch line: ‘I just could not resist’.

Over the course of the play, Ali set out to prove his worth to win the heart of the ‘Paparazzi Princess’ Amirah. What followed was a series of comedic scenarios. With a soupcon of trickery and an ounce of intimidation, Ali defeated the gang and eventually won the heart of Sultan Bin Roolin of Leela Palace (the closest thing to a royal palace in Bangalore, explained the cast). Hasnain Sheikh, an enthusiastic 19-year-old, played the lead character of Alibaba.

On working with his mother Zulfia Sheikh, and their unspoken chemistry, he says, “I grew up in the most dramatic of households. My mother pushes all of us as actors equally. If my flight lands at 5 am, I’m expected at rehearsals at 7 am. So being jet-lagged isn’t an option.”

Zulfia says that working with children can get taxing. “But they are so much more receptive to criticism. I feel so blessed to have led these little ones. I’ve always
maintained that it is not the acting business we are in, but the business of transforming lives. And every child that performed tonight left the stage feeling 10 feet taller,” says Zulfia.

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