I Don't Like it - As You Like it
Despite best efforts, we were running late this afternoon. The play was to begin at 4 PM and we were picking up our co-passenger at five past four in our pooled cab to the Jyoti Nivas College. With cars parked all around the college’s perimeter, the traffic was thick outside. We got off just around the bend and decided to jog to the entrance. While we rushed to find the auditorium’s entrance, the nostalgia of being back in a college campus was prominent. As we reached the auditorium, the organizers were making final calls from the porch. We sped up and started rushing to the ticket counter. “Hurry up guys! We are waiting just for you, the doors are about to close”, called a familiar voice from almost behind us. While the neurons made all sorts of connections to put a face on the voice, I casually gazed behind to see who it was. It was Rajat Kapoor himself, nonchalantly looking at us latecomers in his relaxed denims and a checkered red shirt.
We hurried to our seats and the play began with a hilarious monologue, citing the legendary lines, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, with a twist. The play was titled “I Don’t like it – As you like it”. It was a beautifully scripted improvisation of “As you like it”. Hilarious, energetic, quirky and tastefully sardonic is how I would sum it up. The plot featured a theatre group, where an astute director took upon himself to direct the play “As you like it” with a bunch of underwhelming clowns because the better clowns were “busy doing cinema”. With prominent names in the cast, Joy Fernandes played Popo, the astute director. The ever so talented Vinay Pathak played Fido. It was a delight watching him in a Shakespeare play after having seen him as a north Indian layman in Bheja Fry and Khosla Ka Ghosla. Faezeh Jalali was a live wire on stage, with her high pitched voice and the constant menace of her character Mimi. Mimi’s romantic interest was Coco, superbly played by Aadar Malik, who in spirit resembled Ross from the F.R.I.E.N.D.S, sensitive and invoking laughter through his innocent silliness. Shruti Vyas enacted Fifi, who was Fido’s counterpart but always out of his reach with her fluttering flirtation. The casual MTV VJ Cyrus Sahukar was Soso, who played the most serious character of the melancholic Jacque. Lastly, to add the French touch to a play set in a duchy in France, there was Rytasha Rathore playing Gigi, a chubby French clown freshly added to the troop.The love interests of the clowns in their on stage real life and their on stage characters were all mismatched, creating enough chaos for an evening of fun and frolic for the audience. However, Rajat Kapoor had more mischief up his sleeves and scripted more chaos into the tale. Being disappointed with his troop of clowns and their poor understanding of the characters, Popo the director, gets a genius idea. He decides that all the male characters would be played by the females and all the female characters by the males, in a play where the protagonist Rosalinda already flees her uncle’s court dressed as a man. I believe by now you get an idea of how much chaos that would mean on stage. Having said that, the intricacies were handled beautifully; the storyline and the characters stayed conceivable at all times, each mix up was still funny and completely comprehensible. The play preserved Shakespeare’s artistic values, while beautifully adding modern day subtleties in a quirky way. There was mention of Tinder, Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, a swipe on Bollywood and also sarcasm aimed at the parliament. In all, it was the most brilliant piece of genuine comedy that I had witnessed in a long time.
This play was a small piece in the bigger picture, where Rajat Kapoor and the crew have set out for India’s largest theater festival, covering six cities across India. It is a Comedy Theater Shakespeare Festival, where they have enacted some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays with clown characters, including tragedies like Macbeth. I initially intended to go for Macbeth, since it has the most star studded line up with Ranvir Shorey and Kalki Kochlien, but missed out on the tickets. Luckily, when the curtains drew on this one, they announced that they will redo Macbeth in Bangalore on the 9th of April after having rounded up the entire festival. This time around, I’ll be first one to grab those elusive tickets.