Theatre : Turning Imagination into Reality

by April 30, 2019 0 comments

Director Rajneesh Gautam’s play, The Curse of Hamlet, is woven around the Shakespearean tragedy but set in Delhi of 1993. It blurs the lines between an actor and the character, says Chahak Mittal

Many centuries after his death, the Bard and his works continue to be relevant — for a reason. Transport any of his plays to contemporary times and it could describe the society of that era.

Hamlet (1609), which some years back was seen on the silver screen as Haider, has often been described as the world’s most filmed story after Cinderella, for this work of William Shakespeare stays relevant to the present times and is one of the most influential works of world literature. The play’s concept returns to the Indian stage as The Curse of Hamlet by director Rajneesh Gautam as he directs and narrates the story through Indian characters based in Delhi of 1993.

The director says that the actors in the play are so invested in their characters that the boundaries which separate them from their real selves have become blurred.

The play, he says, is woven around “the basic idea of Shakespearean Hamlet.” It struck him during some rehearsal sessions in January that he could look for a group which has been working on Hamlet for the last 25-30 years. “I found one — the Abhigyan Theatre — and now the actors have become one with the characters.”

The theatre has been presenting a successful production of Hamlet for the last 25 years with Sarveshwar Sharma, the founder of the theatre group, playing the eponymous lead.

In The Curse of Hamlet, tainted with the madness of the play, his relations with his wife Bhavna and his 23-year-old son Siddharth, have also soured. Siddharth’s girlfriend Charu wants him to leave the theatre group, but Siddharth wants to play Hamlet once, just to make a point to his father.

Chetan Saxena, manager, Abhigyan Theatre, too is obsessed with playing Hamlet and has a deep grudge about never getting a chance to do so. Chetan, Bhavna and Sarveshwar were friends from college days and their lives are intricately and perhaps inextricably bound together. Their lives could have continued in the same way, if not for a fateful incident.

Impacted by many Western styles, he says that the play is subtle and realistic in nature since it deals with not only the characters’ obsession to play Hamlet, but also with the director’s urge to find some theatre group which is working on it. The play, he says, presents some answers to the questions like — What if the separation between the characters and the actors ceases? What if the characters step off the stage and enter your life and personal space? — “The conflict, struggle and dilemmas between real and unreal, life and art, actor and character, the self and the very meaning of existence. This is the complex, intriguing, spell-binding story of The Curse of Hamlet,” he says.

Talking about his personal experiences, he talks about how the characters you play create an impact on the personal self. He says, “When you play a character on stage for a long time, it impacts you deeply. It changes you for better or worse. You start thinking and behaving like the character more than yourself. This blurring of lines between actor and character changes things. So somewhere the play is a journey of all those actors who fell the same with a much darker tone.”

Since the play is set in April 1993 in Delhi, Gautam explains why he chose Indian names and characters to bring out the story. “The play is of Indian origin so that it could be more relatable to the audience. Now when they see these characters on stage, they feel more connected to them and their lives,” he says. He feels that the idea of Hamlet might be old, but “our progression is new. It is Hamlet, but at the same time it’s not.”

Gautam believes that the name of the play should convey the “whole” idea of the play. “This play is based around the obsession for playing Hamlet on stage and its repercussions. Hence, the title.”

For Gautam, writing a script and then executing it on stage are two different tasks. “The lines and script are provided to the actors, which always need some processing and improvising. Their dialogues should feel like they are coming from them. We worked on their nuances. And not just dialogues, there are many more things which goes into the transformation of a written play into a stage performance.”

The director, who “adores plays written by Manav Kaul,” believes that there will always be people who will continue to accept theatre as it was during the time when exposure to cinema was comparatively less. He says, “There are still people who appreciate theatre, rather they put it before cinema as they feel that it provides a livelier experience.”

Writer: Chahak Mittal

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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