Clowning around with a classic

Updated: 26 November, 2019 11:34 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Rajat Kapoor's adaptation of Macbeth to be staged this weekend, features a cast full of people dressed as clowns

Ranvir Shorey (centre) in a scene from the play
Ranvir Shorey (centre) in a scene from the play

At its heart, the story of Macbeth is about the serious havoc that all-encompassing greed and ambition wreak on society. This held true when William Shakespeare wrote the play in the early 17th century. And it holds true even now, when political leaders are willing to forsake all values of decency to stay in power, business families are ripped apart due to rivalries, and even the average working person sometimes stabs a colleague in the back to rise up the professional ladder. We actually don't need to look too far beyond the shenanigans taking place in our own state government for proof. There doesn't need to be killing and bloodshed for the plot to resonate, because what we have in Maharashtra at the moment is a murder of democracy, or so some say.

It's keeping this contemporary relevance in mind that Bollywood personality Rajat Kapoor decided to adapt the play, after taking up three other Shakespeare plays earlier — Hamlet, King Lear and As You Like It. His production, called What is Done is Done, will be staged this weekend and stars actors like Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey. Kapoor tells us that all the characters in the adaptation are dressed like clowns, which makes this part of a trilogy of sorts along with Hamlet and King Lear, since the director's version of those plays had actors in similar costumes. But he clarifies, "I had a clear idea from the beginning that I was going to have scary clowns in Macbeth, since that's keeping in line with the plot's themes. It was a really dark play that Shakespeare had written."

Rajat Kapoor at a rehearsal for the play
Rajat Kapoor at a rehearsal for the play

Dark, indeed. The bloodthirsty ambition that Macbeth displays means that he is willing to go to any length of betrayal to achieve it. Friend or foe, no one's spared the sword if he or she comes in the way. And Lady Macbeth is no better. Instead of being a keeper of her husband's conscience, she constantly fuels his greed. The result is that the two of them descend into madness once their guilt catches up with them eventually. Kapoor says, "Lady Macbeth's situation was worse actually, since she was unable to sleep at night and killed herself ultimately."

He adds that instead of it being a battle between kingdoms, the central character in his play kills a CEO to become one himself. "I am not interested in an army and a war scene. Instead, I am more interested in the emotions that the play evokes. The story isn't dated even though it was written over 400 years ago. It of course has political overtones, and not just in our country, but all over. And the very fact that people are displaying the same traits as in Shakespeare's time shows how contemporary the story still is," Kapoor says, with Pathak echoing his views when he tells us, "It's relevance has remained intact for hundreds of years. It still rings close to home, and is a tale of friendship, faith, betrayal and most of all, guilt."

Guilt. It's that one emotion that remains at the centre of the plotline once Macbeth's lust for power is satiated. It is what humanises him in the end after all his monstrous deeds. It might even compel the audience to feel pity for him, helping them look past all the treacherous daggers he wielded to get to the top. The speech he gives on hearing of Lady Macbeth's suicide — which begins with the line, "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" — signifies best how meaningless he felt life to be once confronted by his own sense of guilt. Now, if only some people in positions of authority in our own day and age displayed that same emotion, we would be possibly living in a more just and fair society. Wouldn't we?

On November 29, 6 pm
At St Andrew's Auditorium, St Dominic Road, Bandra West.
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Cost Rs 600

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First Published: 26 November, 2019 09:25 IST

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