'Music and words go well together'

On stage

For the past few years, all his plays have a constant companion — music. This is the notable insignia of director Sunil Shanbag’s theatre productions in which melodies beautifully integrate with performance. His latest production, Loretta too has this trademark component, but this time the 59-year-old has chosen a popular Goan theatrical form ‘tiatr’ to narrate a tale of cultural issues.

“I was looking for a form that incorporates storytelling and addresses political issues. This form revolves around social and political themes and it also has music, which is an attraction for me,” Shanbag tells Metrolife.

The play will be staged in the capital as a part of Aadyam theatre festival, and according to Mumbai-based Shanbag, the play was written and produced especially for the festival which is in its second year.

The play was originally written in Konkani language by Goa-based Pundalik Naik and later adapted in English by Milind Dhaimade.

“I asked Naik to write the play in the language he is comfortable in because it was important to preserve the core thought of the play. So there is a fair amount of Konkani in it,” he says.

“The reason I couldn’t make it entirely in Konkani language is because my plays travel across the country and not everyone understands the language,” he adds.

Set in the Goa of 70s, the play revolves around a widower Antonio Piedade Moraes, who is protective about his cultural values, especially Konkani language. So when his son returns from Mumbai with his Anglo-Indian girlfriend, Loretta (played by Rozzlin Pereira) Antonio makes it clear that only if she learns the language, she would be accepted in the family.

This is why ‘language’ is shown as a metaphor in the play in a colourful and joyous way that will reflect true Goan spirit. “Since Independence furious language debates in Goa regarding Konkani, Marathi and English have taken place and it continues till this day. We are trying to explore the conflict between cultural and language identities in it,” says Shanbag who has directed critically-acclaimed plays like Cotton 56, Polyester 84, a 2006 play about the lives of Mumbai’s textile-mill workers and a play on censorship woes, S*x M*rality & Cens*rship.

Another important characteristic of tiatr is that after each act, a standalone piece is performed on stage. It has no connection with the ongoing story, but is an opportunity for the director to address contemporary societal and political issues. “These acts allow one to look deeper into the issues that malign and bother many of us,” he says.

This is Shanbag’s second production for Aadyam. Last year, he had staged a musical Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon. Ask him why he incorporates music in his plays, Shanbag says, “The way I use music is different. I personally feel that music and words go well together and audience too responds to music in a different way. Music basically addresses a different part of the brain.”

The play will be staged on May 27 and May 28 at Kamani Auditorium, Mandi House.

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