Hit Broadway musical’s Indianised avatar comes to capital

February 22nd, 2011 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) The path-breaking 1967 Broadway musical about the flower children, “Hair: The American Tribal Rock Show Musical” is ready to make a three-day splash in an Indian avatar in the capital with an opulent light and laser play.”The abstract musical presented by the Neemrana Music Foundation has been reworked into a contemporary social narrative to appeal to the Indian audience,” said director of the musical Soma Sundaram, a Delhi-based theatre activist and a French instructor at the Alliance Francaise.

The musical, produced by Antoine Redon of the Neemrana Foundation, will sport a rainbow cast to encapsulate the spirit of the opera that tells the story of the West’s search for spiritual freedom in India at the outset of the flower years - the hippie era - to escape the agony of the Vietnam War.

The play, like its original American version which saw an off-Broadway debut in 1967 before it opened on Broadway in 1968, was previewed briefly in the capital in April 2010.

“I rewrote the whole script so that the Indian audience could understand it. The original script was too abstract for Indian sensibilities. The Indian audience relates to stories,” Soma Sundaram told IANS.

He said that at the heart of the “rebuilt play was a gripping family story that opened with a feud between the son, a young adult, the father and the family”.

“The son wants to go to India in search of spiritual nirvana while the father eggs him on to get a job. I have loosely divided the play into three acts, but on the stage it flows as whole,” the director said.

Sundaram, who has been a part of the capital’s stage for the last 30 years, spent two months to rewrite the script. “I did not take liberties with the original play. I just restructured the sequences,” he said.

The show notched a tally of 1,750 performances.

“Hair”, in keeping with the spirit of the late 1960s, talks of freedom. The musical uses rock music - the symbol of the turbulent decade when the American youth was seeking change with experiments in drugs and Oriental mysticism in the wake of the Vietnam War - to convey the message - ‘Be free, no guilt, be whoever you are, do whatever you want just as long as you don’t hurt anyone’, the director said.

It was originally a collaboration between James Rado, who wrote the screenplay, Gerome Ragni, the lyricist and Galt MacDermot, who composed the music.

“Hair” moves along with a tribe, a group of politically active, long-haired hippies living a bohemian life in New York city and fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War, Soma Sundaram said.

Claude, his good friend Berger, their roommate Sheila and their friends struggle to balance their young lives, loves and the sexual revolution with their rebellion against the war and their conservative elders and society, he added.

Ultimately, Claude must decide whether to resist the draft as his friends have done, or to compromise and risk his life by serving his country in Vietnam. Sex and drugs are used as vehicles to evade reality and cult tracks - like “I’m Black”, “Let the Sun Shine”, “Aquarius” and “I Got Life” - talk of hope and a new era.

“The original musical has nudity but here we cannot afford to show nudity on stage. The sequences have been redone with minimum clothes so as not to hurt Indian sensibilities,” he said.

The musical is full of references to India with the refrain “hare rama, hare krishna” which epitomised the LSD years of the late 1960s, the director said.

According to Antoine Redon, the producer of the musical, the musical is relevant to the inner revolution taking place in India. “Indian souls are evolving and we wanted to be part of the change with the musical,” Redon said.

Redon has brought a French special effects expert Fox, a former hippie, to create three-dimensional special effects on the monuments inside the Purana Qila, where the Feb 25-28 event will take place. “We will beam footages from 1968 when the show opened and snapshot from the flower years to enhance the mood of the musical,” Redon said.

The multi-racial crew of “Hair” includes dance choreographer Bhavini Misra, projectionists Lional Magal, Philipe Ducroc and Bernard Filipetti, casting coordinator Catherine Prakash and costume designer Lucie Salaun.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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