In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a young Prince, prompted by a ghost, tries to avenge his father’s death, but amidst much dithering, ends up causing a series of deaths and making forever famous the line “to be or not to be”. In Cinematograph’s Hamlet, the characters’ bumbling reaches new heights!
“This play is a search in the world of Hamlet through the eyes of clowns. The clown has fascinated me for many years and this motif appears again and again in all my work including my film work. It is through the eyes of a clown that I wanted to explore the vast world of Hamlet. The result is a comic way in which the actors have improvised the various parts of the play and yet touched upon the tragedy of the young prince”. - Rajat Kapoor (Director)
A bunch of clowns are putting up a Hamlet production. They sometimes misinterpret the text, sometimes find new meanings in it, sometimes try and understand it, very often make a mess of it. They choose to use some phrases from the play and mix it up with gibberish. They even edit the text, throw out important scenes, mix up pages and make a mess of the order of things. But through it all, they are simply looking for the essence of Hamlet, trying to find in it relevance in a context of their own.
Welcome to the chaotic world of Hamlet as you’ve never seen it before.
Shakespearean actors have given way to clowns. Scenes that were originally tragic now bring on the giggles. Profound metaphors have become literal. And the original archaic Shakespearean text has been replaced with nonsense syllables and disjointed Shakespearean words and phrases strung together.
This huge deviation from the original Hamlet might sound fluffy to some. But in truth, director Rajat Kapoor’s play springs from the base that was Shakespeare’s Hamlet to become something very different and exciting.
By removing rational language, Rajat shifts the focus to movement, facial expression and utterance to convey pure emotion and thought. From Shakespeare’s play, he borrows bits of structure, language, sounds and metaphors. Then he puts them all on a bare, unadorned stage, gives them new meanings and spins them all into an intricate web of comedy, pathos and poignancy that has only a little bearing on the original source.
And the results – silly, funny, rational yet irrational, sometimes a little sad, and later on, quite beautiful – are likely to throw some surprising light on the quirks of human nature.
Hamlet – The Clown Prince
WINNER of “Best Play”, “Best Director”, “Best Actor”, “Best Supporting Actor” and “Best Costume Design”,
Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, New Delhi.
Language: English and Gibberish with no surtitles.
Rajat is a passout from FTII Pune. He started his theatre career with Delhi-based theatre group Chingari. He presently is not only a theatre director but an accomplished film actor and director. A three-time National Award Winner, Rajat is also producing cinema now. His latest film Mithya had shades of Hamlet as well.
Atul Kumar (actor)
Atul is an actor and director who heads his own theatre company called The Company Theatre. Presently Atul is setting up an International Theatre Residency for rigorous training and research in the countryside of Maharashtra.
Rachel D’souza (actor)
This is Rachel’s first major theatre appearance. Besides acting, Rachel is also involved in theatre writing and scenography and is an active member in The Company Theatre.
Neil Bhoopalam (actor)
Neil is a known face from Channel V where he performed as a VJ for many years. He started theatre in college and has worked with various directors in many productions. He is also a film actor now with many new releases due this year.
Puja Sarup (actor)
Puja is a trained theatre actress from Bombay University. She has worked internationally with various theatre companies and directors. Puja is constantly searching for opportunities to challenge her own skills and art form by constantly engaging in riyaaz and workshops.
Namit Das (actor)
Namit began as a classical singer and found his way to stage acting in school and college. Since then he has worked in Mumbai with various directors, recently finished the play President is Coming at the Writer’s Block Festival in Mumbai, and played many roles in diverse plays and theatrical forms, demonstrating an amazing repertory of techniques.
Sujay Saple (actor)
Sujay is an upcoming actor/director who has worked with The Company Theatre for the last seven years. He has acted in plays like Voices, Noises Off and The Con Artist and co-directed Smell with Atul Kumar for the Writers’ Block Festival 2004. He conducts theatre workshops for students all over India. Sujay is now working on the Youth section of EVAM - the International Residency for Theatre Research & Performance.
Tanya Ghavri (backstage)
This is Tanya’s first theatre assignment. She is otherwise a film costume designer in Bollywood where she has designed and assisted in costumes for producers like Karan Joha.
Director: Rajat Kapoor
Actors: Atul Kumar, Rachel D’souza, Neil Bhoopalam, Puja Sarup, Namit Das, Sujay Saple
Backstage: Tanya Ghavri
Esplanade: What inspired you to focus on the figure of the clown in your two recent plays – C for Clowns and Hamlet?
Rajat: This is a tough one for me to answer- why the clowns? I don’t know - but one thing is for sure… I am fascinated with them.
My interest might have its roots in the films of Charlie Chaplin (whom I worship) and Buster Keaton (whom I love). There are other clowns I like, like the Marx brothers, Kishore Kumar... But now, after having done a few plays with clowns, I think this is a stylisation that gives me the liberty to interpret texts, ideas and themes - with a distance.
Esplanade: We’ve read that C for Clowns was primarily created through improvisation.Did Hamlet – The Clown Prince also develop in that way?
Rajat: The same process was followed here… though, of course here we had a text - that of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
But we didn’t know where we would go with the text, so the rehearsals became an exercise in, looking at the text, trying to understand it, choosing what was relevant for us, trying to find ways of doing it.
So, yes, there was improvisation if you want to call it that… In spirit at least because we did not know what we would end up with, with the production. The “text” we finally got was arrived at through rehearsals. So in that sense, the process was of writing as we rehearsed..
Esplanade: Your actor of choice seems to be Atul Kumar with whom you work very often and very well. Can you tell us more about his contribution to the characterisation of the clown prince?
Well, Atul and I have worked together for the past 26 years - which seems like a long, long time, considering how young we are. But well, we started early...
His contribution? Well, what can i say? I think there are hardly any theatre actors in this country that I would pay to watch. Atul is one of them. And then to watch him during rehearsals is a sheer joy. The kind of energy, madness and rigour he brings to the rehearsals is inspiring!
Hamlet is as much his, as it is mine.
Esplanade: Congratulations on winning the “Best Director Award” at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2009. How has this win affected you so far?
You know, I firmly believe that one works for his work’s own sake. To me, what matters is that five people (whose opinions I respect and whose appreciation I crave) like my work - whether it is my film or play.
Beyond that, whatever happens is a bonus. If a million people watch it, I am thrilled. If it gets awards, that is very gratifying. But if it doesn’t or if nobody watches it, the work will not lose its value for me or change its meaning! So in that sense, it does not affect me.
Having said that, winning an award means a recognition, a fact, that somebody else put a value to your work and it is prestigious. In that sense, i am very grateful for it.