The classic British novel “Wuthering Heights” moved from the windswept moors of Yorkshire to the searing heat of India in a Bollywood-style production that hit the London stage on Thursday.
British TV actor Deepak Verma has given Emily Bronte’s tale a drastic makeover, tapping into the fast-rising profile of Bollywood, which is attracting a wider audience thanks to the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
In the production at the Lyric Hammersmith theater in west London, the novel’s main character, the brooding Heathcliff, has been renamed Krishnan and his search for love is played out against a dazzling swirl of color.
The director of the play, Kristine Landon-Smith, who is half-Indian and half-Australian, said the biggest hurdle she faced was taking the original story of love and heartbreak in the 18th century and setting it to music.
“One of the biggest challenges is making a new musical. We haven’t just put ‘Wuthering Heights’ into an Indian setting, we’ve made it into a musical and therein lies a huge challenge,” she said.
“We kept the production in the same time frame as the book and at that time in India there was a real hierarchy and a class system and all that sat very well with the social context of the novel.”
Verma, a former star of popular British soap opera “Eastenders,” said “Wuthering Heights” was “just perfect” for adaptation.
“There are so many things about it that just fitted in with aspects of Indian culture,” he said. “What interested me is the ghostly, haunting aspect of the book.
“The Victorian values in the novel are also found in Indian society and the desert is a harsh place, just like the moors of Yorkshire.”
The play has been produced by the Tamasha theater company, which gave an early break to Parminder Nagra, who went on to star in the hit 2002 film “Bend it Like Beckham” and now features in TV hospital drama “ER”. AFP
Photo: Pushpinder Chani, who plays Krishnan, right, hugs Youkit Patel playing Shakuntala, as they perform a scene from the new Bollywood style version of Wuthering Heights, which is based on the novel by Emily Bronte, at the Lyric Theatre in London. (Joel Ryan, AP)