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Assam playwright, Oz director, S African producer recreate 'Aladdin'

By PTI
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New Delhi, Oct 9: Mumbai-based Assamese playwright Lakhinandan Boruah has teamed up with veteran Australian director Glenn T Hayden and producer Anjil Naidoo of South Africa to recreate middle-eastern folk tale "Aladdin" that opened in Durban late last month.

"Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" features a cast of 20 actors and dancers from across the world and its background score and songs are composed by Pranashan Singh and choreographed by Bertwin D'Souza and Shampa Gopikrishna. The dance cast consists of a few Mumbai-based dancers.

Boruah says "Aladdin" over the years has been told by many storytellers in different ways and so "our approach was to remain more truthful" to the folk tale than the other western adaptations.

"If we read the 'Tales from 1001 Nights', we'd find that there were multiple genies in Aladdin's story. We found it very interesting. So, we kept multiple genies in our adaptation, and it turned out to be a wise decision as it helped us explore different dimensions of Aladdin's character," Boruah told PTI.

"We also kept the evil magician from the original story as the main antagonist. Similarly, Aladdin's mother plays a prominent role in our play. We wanted the women in the story to be strong. Our princess and Aladdin's mom feature as very strong women in our adaptation," he says.

After opening in Durban on September 30 with an international cast and crew from South Africa, Germany, India, Australia, USA and other countries, "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" is set to travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town later this year and early next year.

The play is seen as a unique and an extravagant production in terms of size and quality rarely seen in South Africa. It includes 3D projection mapping done by Jasson Heffer and Los Angeles-based VFX artist Walid Feghadi.

Boruah says the idea for this play in English came from Naidoo.

"Anjil was always fond of theatre but felt she never contributed enough in this field. After beating cancer, she decided to do what she wanted to do for a very long time - theatre. The story of Aladdin was very close to her heart. So, she decided to start her journey as a producer with this story," he says.

Hayden was familiar with Boruah's work. This was their third collaboration. Before "Aladdin", Boruah wrote one play for Hayden's theatre company and assisted him in another production.

The Australian director says bringing the story of Aladdin into script form for the 21st century with Boruah, who started his career as a documentary filmmaker in 2014, was more than joyous.

"The story is jam-packed with action and themes that are a theatre creator's dream. We particularly enjoyed fleshing out the women in the story to compliment Aladdin and to highlight that the communities we live in need to be nurtured to respect all of its members," Hayden told PTI.

As Naidoo is an entrepreneur based out of Durban, "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" was first staged in that South African city.

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