From Moors to the Deserts of Rajasthan

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Byline: Barbara Hodgson

A BOLLYWOOD-style version of the Victorian classic Wuthering Heights transports Northern Stage to sunnier climes this week.

Gone are the bleak moors of Emily Bront's Yorkshire-set novel and, in their place, are the India deserts of Rajasthan.

The worst anyone can say is that this adaptation by British Asian theatre company Tamasha is different.

The best is that it's a refreshingly imaginative and daring venture that adds colour to the 1847 tale.

It's all down to actor-turned-writer Deepak Verma, who came up with the idea in the first place.

And the version he's written shows he dares to be different.

But then Bront was daring in her day and her love story involving Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff - packed with cruel passions, vengeance and jealousy - was a bit of a shocker when it was published.

Deepak - who played EastEnders character Sanjay Kapoor for six years until 1998 - turns the famous main characters into the fiery Shakuntala (Youkti Patel in her professional stage debut) and Krishan (Pushpinder Chani) and sets them in Rajasthan, in the 1770s.

He saw a clear parallel, he says, between "the darkness of the moors and harshness of the desert. They're unmerciful, unforgiving, relentless".

To a large extent, he decided to free himself from the book and the 1939 film version starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier.

"As a writer you have to do that or else you stifle your creativity," he explains.

"And I had to make a big decision about what part of the book to transfer." For him, Heathcliff, the anti-hero, was the key. Then he found parallels between Victorian England's restrictive class hierarchy and Indian society's taboos and the caste system.

"On a metaphysical level, it really fits into the Hindu belief in reincarnation, having a soul that leads through many lifetimes," he says. …

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