Men of honour

Updated: Jul 14, 2019, 07:23 IST | Ekta Mohta

For Aadyam, actors Neil Bhoopalam and Rajit Kapur step into the buffed shoes of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, to portray a few good men.

Men of honour
Neil Bhoopalam and Nadir Khan. Pic/Shadab Khan. Location courtesy/The little door

In the middle of our interview with theatre director Nadir Khan, "garibon ka Tom Cruise" walks in. Actor Neil Bhoopalam, who is set to play Cruise's character on Khan's production of A Few Good Men, knows that "a fair amount of jokes" is on its way. Khan is ready with his: "When Neil is shaved, he looks as close as we (Indians) can to Tom Cruise."

Aadyam's fifth season debuts with A Few Good Men, written originally by playwright and star screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, as a rat-a-tat courtroom exchange between two formidables. In 1992, it was adapted to screen; Cruise played the green US Navy lawyer and Jack Nicholson played the scenery-chewing colonel in the Marine Corps. Khan, who is directing his second legal play after 12 Angry Jurors in 2016, is game for comparisons. "Bring them on. Comparisons are inevitable, especially when you're dealing with scripts that have been made into iconic films. The point is, just because you know a story doesn't necessarily mean that it can only be told one way. For example, the story of Red Riding Hood: it doesn't mean that [since] kids have heard it once, they never want to hear it again. Watching a story you know in a different medium with a different director [can be just as exciting]."

He zeroed in on Bhoopalam and Rajit Kapur because he needed "actors of a particular calibre. It is Sorkin, which means that it is cracking scriptwriting. And, there's a lot of work involved because it is so dialogue-based. The dialogue is the real pleasure of it all. You need actors who are quick on their feet, have the right instincts, who can just take a line and bring it to life." Which means the leads have their work cut out. "The fact is, the force of the actor's personality and the force of the character you create, is what you (the audience) are reacting to," says Khan. "It was Jack Nicholson at the end of the day. The camera could have just focused on his nose, and you'd feel the same way. It's really [about] how you construct the scene. And the actors get to a point, where it is so precisely choreographed and rehearsed, that you are swept in."

For Bhoopalam, that meant homework. "Just to get a quick story line and some of the details, I watched [the movie] on Nadir Khan's homework list: but earlier on in the rehearsal process, not now. I was part of [the TV show] 24, and you don't want to watch [the original], otherwise you get too influenced by the grammar. This is also the first time I'm playing a lawyer. And, it's interesting to see this argument [play out]. Nadir did #SingIndiaSing last year, so he also listens to the sur of it, the tone of it." When he was initially approached for the role, "I didn't know which part Nadir wanted me to play. I had done two-bit roles in some of his plays. And now, I've got a lead. I didn't know there was so much responsibility. I started going one page after the other, and I was like, 'Oh, this guy is in every scene.' I should check the message again. Who am I playing?"

Even though Khan is not a Sorkin "bhakt" and Bhoopalam is "getting there," the latter says, "You pick up any scene and you read it, it's got a lot of power. Yesterday, in fact, this happened. I didn't share this with you (Khan). You're watching your fellow actor say the lines and you put forth the argument and you actually really get drawn. Your mind can't wander. Even if the person is opposing, it's still a valid argument. It is still truth in itself. So, it's a clash of opinions and it's a clash of those truths. Now, whose truth is bigger or better than the other?" Bhoopalam doesn't say it, but it's on the tip of our tongue: you can't handle the truth.

Where: St Andrew's Auditorium, St Dominic Rd, Bandra West; 26410926
When: July 20 and 21; 4 PM and 7.30 PM
Entry: Rs 300 – Rs 1,250
To book: www.insider.in

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