Rajat Kapoor’s clowns take ‘As You Like It’ to new high

New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) “To find yourself, you must become the other,” That’s the message of the latest adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like it” by noted theatre and film artist Rajat Kapoor, who feels that the trick to understanding the Bard is through watching the unconventional versions.

The interesting twist of clowning in his play “I Don’t Like It. As You Like it”, absolutely dazzled the audiences at the Kamani Auditorium here because of its perfectly timed comedy and phenomenal dramatics.

A troupe of clowns attempts to mount “As You Like It” under a tyrannical director, Popo. The gender-based scuffles amongst the cast merge with the original play’s love treatment. And this issue, for obvious reasons, generates a special interest among the audiences today.

“The play is about gender so I thought it would be interesting to have this conversation about what it is like to be a woman and what it is like to be a man,” Kapoor told IANS.

Commenting on Popo’s authoritative manner of directing the cast, he said: “Playing on a clown cliche that the director is the boss, we call him bossy. In the sense of his vision he is definitely the boss. Be it films or plays, he is the creative boss not an authority.”

“You need to push them (actors) in a certain way. Creativity happens when people are free in their mind not when they are scared. They do well in an atmosphere where they are free to create”.

“Direction is more about love, not aggression or authority. Sometimes, I have felt that kind of a hierarchy as an actor and I hate those films. It has happened a couple of times and I hated that experience, I hate those directors who try to be bigger than Jesus. That is a terrible way of being. I hate arrogant people so it was not enjoyable.”

“People should trust each other deeply especially in a process like clowning, when we go without a script and improvise everyday to come to this.”

“The feeling that it’s okay to take your pants off and be naked requires trust. For me as a director, it was very important that the atmosphere of trust is created between me and them and also among themselves.

Containing concentric love circles, the play enhances the comic effect of the original, keeping alive the aspect of cross-dressing that allowed Shakespeare to explore the fluidity of gender.

Women in the play decide to take male parts and vice versa, to which one of the characters says: “As if the play wasn’t confusing enough.”

Thus, the character of Rosalind essentially continues to be played by a woman but, because the person eventually becoming Rosalind is actually playing a man, the element of cross dressing and role-playing is enhanced.

Little confusing to imagine but viewing the play offers entertainment as well as comprehensibility of all the role-playing that happens on stage.

Because of its amusing dialogues, and the gibberish accents coming from the sweet, adorable clowns who keep getting into jocular scuffles, the element of comedy remains alive.

“Everything is possible with a Shakespearean play. The gibberish accent came up in “C For Clown” which was my first clowns’ play. In trying to discover how clowns talk, we came across this idea which is a nonsensical language and still makes sense,” Kapoor said.

“Clowns can’t talk like you and me. They needed a special language and I thought it would be nice to have a clown move from gibberish to shakespearean text,” he explained.

“Clowning is an idea that I have been doing for last 15 years.”

“This is my fifth play with clowns. There must be some influence of this element. If I go into psychoanalysis, I will find out why,” the director said jokingly, adding: “Chaplin is a big influence but I am not sure if I am into clowning because of that. We don’t know why we do what we do, but we do.”

Kapoor expressed his immense appreciation for Shakespeare, saying: “What he did was he touched the depth of human emotions in an incredible way that has not been matched in 400 years.”

“Shifting or bringing Shakespeare from one era to the other is desirable as an artist. You can’t do Shakespeare the way it was written. It was written for a different set of people, another country, another time, and I hate watching a Shakespearean play in a conventional way. I can’t stand five minutes of it.”

One thing is for sure: As the clowns, despite their fears and doubts manage to put up their show and discover something new about themselves and about each other, so did many in the audience after watching “I Don’t Like It. As You Like it”.

(Mudita Girotra can be contacted at mudita.g@ians.in)



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