Monday, February 4, 2019

The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde

My first encounter with this play came when the Telugu movie 'Ashta Chamma' produced by Ram was made. Funnily I had this entire collection of works by Oscar Wilde in my possession then and never got down to reading it. (My then employer, IDBI, had given us free gift coupons of 1500 bucks - a fortune then - to redeem. I went to Akshara Book store and splurged on all the classics - Wilde, Austen and others). So when Mohan Krishna adapted the play into a rip-roaring comedy with a bunch of new faces I was always interested in reading the actual play. And finally, I got down to reading it.

Two friends, John and Algernon meet up in the beginning. They don't seem to get along well. Algernon asks Earnest why he has a letter addressed to him by the name of John from a lady called Cecily. Earnest says he uses the name John when he lives in the country and uses Earnest in London. Algernon accuses him of lying to his fiance Gwendolene about his name. Turns out Gwen hates common names like John and loves the Earnest - because it has these lovely vibrations. Earnest is in a fix - if he tells her about his name she will dump him. Meanwhile, Algernon heads off to the country in search of Cecily who he has taken a fancy to and tells her his name is Earnest - and he is actually John brother who lives in London. They fall in love.

All is well until John gets to know that Algernon is in the country and heads off after him to keep him away from Cecily - his sister. Gwen follows him in hot pursuit. She meets Cecily who confesses her love for Earnest. The ladies have a spat over who Earnest really belongs to, until the men step up and confess to their real names. The two ladies get together and dump the gentlemen.

Meanwhile further twists reveal that John actually has a family and in fact, he is the brother of Algernon. All's well and that ends well with the girls conceding that the boys were mde of sterling stuff and their names didn't matter so much.

The adaptation was wild and whacky and full of laughs. But the original by Wilde, is unbelievably sharp. Superb writing. The kind of stuff that makes you want to read more and more and be glad you had a chance to read such stuff. 

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