This weekend, Rajat Kapoor returns to the stage with I Don’t Like It. As You Like It. He is doing what he loves best — reinterpreting Shakespeare, using clowns as a tool. “This is a play that I have had a fondness for, for a while actually. I have even written a film script around a theatre troupe trying to put up As You Like It in Mathura. The script is titled Mathura Mein Ta-Ta-Thaiyya,” he says over email.
Rosalind is the protagonist of the play. The daughter of the exiled Duke Senior, she leaves her uncle’s court for the Forest of Arden where she lives disguised as a shepherd named Ganymede, with her cousin, Celia.
He is intrigued by the idea of Rosalind going into a forest and becoming a man. “I thought, what if a man is playing Rosalind. Then, we’d have a man playing a woman playing a man… and that kind of got me into the play. And the fact, that in the process of becoming the other, one might find some other truth, which brings you closer to yourself.”
On using clowns to interpret Shakespeare, he says they are a handy tool. “They can be irreverent. Nothing is sacred for a clown — not even Shakespeare,” he says, ending the sentence with a smiley.
“Over the last four plays — Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth and As You Like It — we could edit the text, turn things around, throw out chunks of it that did not interest us, and delve deeper into the parts that were exciting for us.”
On writing comedy, he says, “You have to start with an idea and see where the idea wants to go. You cannot impose your will on it. And finally, what it reflects, is who you are.”
But, comedy must come with subtext. “Comedy does not, and should not, deal with trivial things. Great comedies have always taken on the gravest issues — look at Chaplin’s Modern Times or Gold Rush — or how a film about Hitler could be fodder for a comedy. But, maybe it is not even fair to call his films comedies. May be they are not comedies — but we can not run away from the fact that Chapin was a clown. The greatest of them all. And being a clown he could take on anything!”
Writing plays, he says, is an organic process that involves the actors. “Together we get to work, without knowing where we are going, and even less how we are going to get there. We keep going, finding things on the way — building things with what we find... and only in the end, with the first audience, we realise what we have created.”
Where: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre: NCPA, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point
When: 7.30 pm, March 5; 4 pm and 7.30 pm, March 6
Entry: Rs 300 - Rs 1,000