Clowning this weekend, well, coming this weekend is Rajat Kapoor with a band of talented actors to present us with adaptations of Shakespeare’s works. The brilliant actor-director known his mainstream roles in movies like Corporate and Bheja Fry will be accompanied by actors like Kalki Koechlin, Neil Bhoopalam, Vinay Phatak and Ranvir Shorey. The group will be entertaining us with English plays like Nothing like Lear and Hamlet at JTPAC (Jose Thomas Performing Arts Center), Thrippunithura on 29th January.
“Both the plays will have clowns as main characters. Using clowns to me is a classical way of bringing something new to what can otherwise be boring,” Rajat Kapoor says. Kapoor says his love for clowns and comedy came from Charlie Chaplin and all his works. Admitting comedy to be a tough genre to write, he says, it is all about identifying limitations and finding a way to work around them.
Having worked on the Bard’s plays before, he confesses that it is difficult to choose a favourite. But from among his latest productions, he says it would be. “I also like Habib Tanveer’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sleep No More by Punchdrunk, an adaptation of Macbeth.” As for the actors he has chosen to play the various characters, he feels, “It is up to them to interpret it the best way they want to.”
The actor who is currently working on a new independent movie, says, “It has been more than 400 years since Shakespeare has written plays. And though relationships have evolved, the emotions we feel haven’t changed. For example, jealousy is till date equated to Othello or eternal romance to Romeo-Juliet.”
Vinay Phatak, an actor who has parts in both Lear and Hamlet to be showcased in the city says, “I play Hamlet in ‘Hamlet the clown prince’ and ‘Nothing like Lear’ is a one actor performance art piece that is an adaptation of King Lear. In Hamlet, a clown company decides to put up a Shakespearean tragedy for the evening and things go awry on While Nothing like Lear is a clown’s interpretation of a common man and the father in him just like Shakespeare’s King Lear.”
As for his longterm association with friend and colleague Rajat Kapoor, Phatak says, “Rajat and I have been very good friends for a long time- even before we started working together. There’s a comfort and respect I have for him that’s unmatched. His artistic vision and his continuous search for aesthetic substance make him a very special visionary. And he’s a very approachable and a fair and forthright director to work with! He’s an extraordinary talent. As an actor I feel attended to with him. Also, he is my best friend.”
The actor who is known for his comic roles on the silver screen says, no one really knows the difference between comedy on screen and comedy on the stage. “For me the real difference lies in the script or the story and how you interpret it, and where you present it. Different mediums have different challenges. And a dramatic role could be as challenging as a comic role. I like to get into the story that I am telling at that particular time.”
The actor who has been to different countries with the group to showcase these plays feels, that in the west theatre almost seems like a necessity, an integral part of their social and cultural fabric. “While in India it’s still a niche art form, a luxury, a lifestyle of a higher realm. But, cinema is more engrained in our daily life. We grow up on cinema. It’s an integral part of who we are. We never grow up on theatre here.” This is what he feels could be the reason audiences react differently to plays here versus plays abroad.
Clowning according Phatak is all about validating a stereotype anyway. “They prefer it. They actually thrive on it. It’s a heightened state of navrasas! Why would I want to break it or even change it? It’s fun! That’s the whole point and the joy- to be unapologetically offensive and unflinchingly and unabashedly in your face,” he adds when asked about clowns and stereotypes.
So, will you be there to watch all the clowning? The plays are being showcased on the 29th at JTPAC. The group will be touring other cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai.