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    Rajat Kapoor’s The Shakespeare Theatre Festival opens in Bengaluru tonight. And the actor-filmmaker is “really excited”. For the first time, he will stage all of his four plays, from what can be called a ‘clown franchise’, at a single venue.

    In these productions, adapted from William Shakespeare’s famous works, he has reimagined all the characters as clowns. So, As You Like It is I Don’t Like It – As You Like It (with men and women swapping roles), and Macbeth is now What Is Done Is Done (the brave Scottish general is called Macky B). In Hamlet – The Clown Prince, a troupe of jesters mess with the original text of Hamlet. Then, King Lear is reinvented as Nothing Like Lear, where an old gibberish-spewing clown is dumped by his daughter. So witness lots of humour at this three-day fest, as well as a stellar line-up of actors — Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Cyrus Sahukar, Neil Bhoopalam, and Kapoor’s friend, Vinay Pathak.

    Ask him about his fixation with clowns, and Kapoor isn’t sure about the reason. He says, “Even I don’t know. Obviously there must be some reason, but you can’t analyse these things beyond a point. Who knows why one does what one does? But one does something because there is some attraction. There is an impulse that keeps pulling you back in that direction, and one must respect it.” Perhaps because clowns look and act funny, but hide “a gamut of emotions” inside them, which Kapoor will give you a glimpse of.

    It was in 1999 when Kapoor first directed a clown-centric play. Called C For Clowns, it traced the life of six jokers in a circus. In 2008, he decided to introduce the clown element in Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a “one-off”. “Then, three years later, I decided to adapt King Lear. To make it different from my Hamlet play (Hamlet: The Clown Prince), I went with only one clown in this one (he counts it as a risky project). This year, I attempted two more of Shakespearean works. Now, I actually have a series of Shakespearen clowns (laughs),” the 55-year-old shares, adding he has no plans to adapt any more of the playwright’s texts for the next two to three years.

    The Ankhon Dekhi director hasn’t done extensive research on ‘The Bard’s’ classics, and is discovering “the magic of his characters, and the depth of their emotions one at a time”. “I don’t think I read any of his works completely till I was 30, when I had to translate The Taming Of The Shrew for a Hindi play,” signs off Kapoor, who will soon be seen in a crowdfunded film, called Mantra.
    July 1-3. At Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Tickets (`600 upwards) on inbuzzup.com

    — Barkha Kumari

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