Remember the man in Khosla ka Ghosla or Bheja Fry, or the clown in the Shakespeare adaptations—C for Clowns (1999) and Hamlet: The Clown Prince? His immense ability to entertain justifies his claim to fame. Playing the clown-father in Nothing Like Lear, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear by Rajat Kapoor, Bollywood actor and theatre artiste Vinay Pathak introduces you to the father in Lear and the Lear in every father.
Pathak, who was in the city to perform at the Phoenix Entertainment’s India Theatre Festival 2015 in Bengaluru, marvelled at the relevance of the Bard and his tragic heroes in today’s world, shared his experience of making the play and revealed his upcoming project— Macbeth—in an exclusive interview with THE WEEK.
Excerpts from the interview
How did Nothing Like Lear happen?
Me, Rajat and Atul (Kumar) worked together in the clown series. After we did C for Clown (1999), where we created the clowns in a workshop, we came up with Hamlet: The Clown Prince. When he thought of King Lear, Atul did a 15-minute rendition. It was appreciated well, especially at Prithvi. And Rajat decided we would have a full-fledged one. We met regularly for three-four months to put this together. It was about a father who is an authoritative figure and his daughter. At that stage of our lives, all three of us, had become fathers. That brought in a lot of compassion and vision for the story that we wanted to say. We had to think of what it meant to be a father or being an authority today, when things are so different.
Most of the Bard’s plays have seen several interpretations. What was your take on King Lear in the play?
The play is an attempt to find similarities. Our interpretation was of a middle class man. He could be some Mr Calakunte travelling in a train from Bannerghatta to JP Nagar for work and how things are between the two generations. As there is nothing that hasn’t been said about the play which is more than a 100 years old, we wanted to find our own Lear through the clown, to find the father, the fool within us. It is not spoofy but satirical. The time and space we live in and how relevant it is, even after hundreds of years.
Who is your favourite among the tragic heroes of Shakespeare?
Oh! Hamlet, of couse. You cannot deny the guy, Hamlet is the best. How relevant is the Bard’s work in today’s time?
You read Macbeth and you realise… oh! My god! Several 100 years ago, it was the same politics, people, relationships, ambition. It is basically about human beings in search of power, money, fame happiness and the lack of it. That is why it is fascinating to read and reinterpret this man. Not difficult to read. As he was popular as a playwright of his time, he has left so many different windows open for interpretation.
What is your next venture?
Rajat and I as a team are working on Macbeth, still trying to see how soon it will be. We are never sure of what we were doing. Even this, after three months of labour, we would scrap it if it does not work.
How difficult is it to attempt a Shakespeare adaptation?
When you read King Lear, you realise everything we did in our play—the brother, the blindness—is all in the original play. It is difficult to do an adaptation as we work week after week, month after month to create our own script. This is not Shakespeare’s script. We are writing an original, contemporary script. What is the right script, we don’t know.
Does the context change in your performances depending on the audience as you tour nations?
The audiences have loved it, and we are through with 100 shows in four years, performed across the world—South Africa, Israel, Singapore and Dubai. The structure of the script remains the same, though the audience interaction changes.