We all have grown up reading about the quiet hills of Deoli, and the haunted mansions in Dehra and subtly yet stoutly the tales of Ruskin Bond became a part of our reading consciousness. Even as we have traversed quiet far from the innocence of Bond’s emotive tales, the play by Dushyanth Gunashekar Bonding with Ruskin transcends time as he attempts to revive the stories of the legendary writer through a fresh perspective. The play weaves together 10 selected stories of Ruskin Bond, and narrates it through a train journey. From innocent tales of unrequited love to terrible stories of violence in marriage, a new story begins at each station of the journey.
“Bond stories resonate through generations and it’s something most people grow up reading, and it paints a vivid picture of the hills and the quiet life in India. We have romanticised Bond for years, and thus it made sense to bring these stories to the stage. It will be enjoyed by anyone from eight years to 80 years,’’ director Dushyanth Gunashekar elaborates.
Adding onto the whimsical, sentimental and satirical elements in Bond stories, the play aims to give a visual treat to the audience as it brings on the landscapes, mountain birds and austere pahadi friends from the stories onto the stage through innovative musical and storytelling techniques. “There is a musicality to Bond’s words, and of course his style of writing is captivating. Therefore, we decided to bring in a heavy dose of Hindustani, Western and even opera music, to add to the scheme of things. The play has been designed with actors interacting seamlessly with each other along with the music. Whether it is a tale of love, loss or horror, it is the flawless interaction with the music that sets the tone,” Dushyanth adds.
The character of Ruskin Bond plays the protagonist all along the show, and Yugesh who played the role of Ruskin Bond in the play, feels that his biggest challenge was to switch between different stages of Bond’s life, to seamlessly slip in from one story to another. “To deal with this challenge, I read and closely examined the stories multiple times, looked up old photos of Bond, imagined myself in the hills, sitting and writing. I even went to Mussoorie after performing the first set of shows in June, but unfortunately the writer was out of station,’’ said Yugesh Ramachandran.
Music is another integral part of the play, and it’s performed live and original in order to blend well with the wide range of emotions offered by most Bond stories. “Composing music was extremely interesting and challenging as well because the design of the play involves a lot of musicality and visual imagery. So, we had to make sure that there was a lot of music, but at the same time, ensure that it does not overpower the dialogues,’’ said Mohammad Shameer who composed music for Bonding with Ruskin.
— The play will be staged at Jagriti Theatre on December 2 and 3.