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Face to Face with Rajat Kapoor

If used with the right intonations, gibberish can appropriate the garb and grammar of any developed language. And how! Rajat Kapoor used it to perfection in his play Hamlet, The Clown Prince that was staged in Cochin. Almost mocking the literary intellectual, the play began with a dose of gibberish-Shakespeare was reduced to just that. And yet the language of nonsense was used craftily to bring a new meaning to the classic play.

Rajat Kapoor speaks his mind in this interview.

It is obvious Hamlet, The Clown Prince is very dear to your heart? How much research went into creating this brilliant play.

Not much research. No research actually. That is not my way of working. But a lot of work on stage- in rehearsals- the process was great fun, never work.

The use of gibberish, the language of nonsense, can be used so well in theatre. What made you use this for this script?
Well, that is something we discovered in the earlier play - C FOR CLOWN. And we continue using it in this-it was good to have a language for clowns and another for the Shakespeare text. We could thus move in and out of the text.
And the gibberish has the grammar of a proper language. How did you manage that?
I think it is the emotion that guides the actor… If the emotion is truthful, then that gets expressed – with or without words
There are parts that seem almost like an opera, the gibberish sound European, did you have a European audience in mind when you created this?
No we didn’t have an European audience in mind, but our clowns are European in origin for sure.
My inspiration for clowns is Chaplin and Buster Keaton films. those are the two Big Clowns for me… and my first and everlasting fascination.
On his acting and directing...
You easily juggle the roles of model, actor, director and scriptwriter? How do you manage this?
Well, for one thing, I think I am pretty disciplined- and I make the time available count. Modelling and acting actually does not take much time, but writing does, and directing takes most of it. By prioritising things, one manages...
Which role is the most endearing to you?
The most endearing? Oh well, it must be the one in Bheja Fry. Also a film called I AM 24- that is directed by Saurabh Shukla- it a really good role. Very moving.
It is in the recent past that you seem to be doing things with a certain intensity –directing, acting, script writing etc. Why so late?
"Seem to be" is the key to this question. You see even 20 years back I was working with the same intensity, same passion, but it was not "seen". We used to make plays in Delhi with a theatre troupe called Chingari- there would be an audience of 50 -60 people. If we were lucky 100… we have done shows with 13 people in the audience. And most of these plays would die a silent death after 5-6 shows.
It is only now that one is able to run a play for over 100 shows and over 10 years… These plays are seen by an audience.
It is the same with my films. In the first place I was trying very hard to make films, but there was no opportunity to do so. I did make my first film in 1995 called Private Detective. It had Naseeruddin Shah in it but was never released. It went to a couple of festivals and then, that is it! Nobody really saw it.
Then things changed around 2002- multiplexes came in, a new audience was born and filmmakers like us were given a second lease of life.
You did study film direction? And then what happened?
Studied at FTII from 85 to 88. Then came to Bombay and worked as an assistant to two great filmmakers: Kumar Shahani and Mani Kaul. That was for three years.
Then made my first short film in 1993 called TARANA. It won the national award for the best short film that year, also the national award for best cinematography. In 95 made Private Detective- my first feature film- never released and in 97 another short fiction film- HYPNOTHESIS. That won the National Award. Besides these, I continued theatre- and kept writing scripts that could not find the funds. I kept writing and kept meeting producers who had no faith in those scripts. Mithya was written in this period- finally got made in 2007
While acting, do you have the urge to advise the director?
Never never never... I leave my director at home- I am a very submissive actor and do what I am told. As an actor, I realise my job is to be a part of the larger image and only the director knows what that larger image is.
What was it like to direct your first film and then wait for the public reaction?
The making was fabulous fun. Though after shooting, the producers ran away and I had to wait almost two years to finish the film. That was one of the worst periods of my life. And then another two years, waiting for the film to be released and when it did not, that was heart breaking.
Do you compromise your artistic freedom for success now?
Never NEVER NEVER… not now, not ever.
With all this, yet, you manage to travel with Hamlet, The
Clown Prince? How do you manage your time on a given day?
By some good scheduling, doing one thing at a time and doing it with full focus and

As an actor, are you perhaps a little embarrassed of that adulating stardom? There is something restrained about your style.
But that is just me- it is not that I am embarrassed about my stardom- (you said it, not I- I would never refer to it as stardom… maybe popularity.)- but I know what it means. I also know that people are reacting to an image they have seen on the screen and not really to me. This divide is very clear to me- that is why I take it (adulation as you call it), for what it is... But it is very gratifying all the same- and I am grateful for it...


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