On May 21, I Don't Like It. As You Like It, a play by actor-director Rajat Kapoor, opened the second edition of the Aadyam theatre festival at Delhi's Kamani Auditorium.
The 106-minute production, a take on Shakespeare's play As You Like It, featured some popular names from Indian entertainment, including Vinay Pathak, Cyrus Sahukar, Aadar Malik, Joy Fernandes and Faezeh Jalali. Kapoor, who has been exploring the clown idea since the 1990s in works such as C For Clowns, Hamlet—The Clown Prince and Nothing Like Lear, continues with the theme here, too.
The play opens with a performing troupe of clowns who have hit rock-bottom. There is no money and, sadly, no love for each other. There is constant bickering and backbiting between the members.
But, the show must go on. Troupe director Popo (Fernandes) decides to launch into a Shakespearean work, but there is a twist. The men and women have to play each other's roles. Through their experiments with improvisation, and given the underlying issues they have with each other, everything tumbles into one large mess. But slowly, something meaningful emerges for each clown.
Here is where the play, based on the Bard's 16th century work, incorporates ideas from contemporary themes, especially the battle of the sexes. With gender roles getting fuzzier, and with the confusion and complications in modern relationships, no one knows where their life is going. As the characters are encouraged to step out of their “skins” (shown by way of the characters exchanging costumes) and get into the other's to understand their dilemmas, new revelations and understanding come forth. As Kapoor says: “To find yourself, you must become the other.”
It is a raucous comedy with plenty of innuendos, including notable monologues by Soso's (Sahukar) comical hand-puppet. The play touches upon other issues such as women's safety, fast-paced city life and politics.
The act with the troupe musing in a forest, imagining their lives as fireflies, gives the viewer some space to introspect alongside. If, like the fireflies, you had just a short time to live, what would you change about your current way of living?
Colourful costumes, breezy sets and stellar performances by Jalali, Malik, Sahukar and Pathak made this a worthwhile weekend watch.