A remarkable spinoff from “King Lear”
A car mechanic loves his daughter to bits. He leaves no stone unturned to give her material comforts and a secure future. It is his way of defeating his own feeling of inferiority as an illegitimate child. One day, when the mechanic goes to see his daughter, she turns him out — too ashamed to have her affluent peers see him. The mechanic acts out his sorrow and anger, as a clown. After all, “this is Shakespeare’s darkest play,” he reminds the audience.
Cinematograph and The Company Theatre’s “Nothing like Lear” played to a packed house at the Old World Theatre Festival at the India Habitat Centre last week. It has an all star credit roll — Rajat Kapur was the director and Atul Kumar and Vinay Pathak played the mechanic in two back-to-back presentations of the solo act. With tickets available only in black, before the show, this reporter could only afford to review Kumar’s act.
The play is built upon themes from “King Lear”. There’s betrayal, the concept of nothingness, the pain of love and alienation. But the play isn’t Lear but an adaptation of those themes in a regular tale of a common man.
Monologues hinge on the actor. More than the play itself, Atul Kumar distinguished himself. It was sheer skill on display. In 80 minutes Kumar gradually lifts the tempo, plays on our heartstrings and finally culminates in green lit climax mourning his own curses on his daughter.
When Kumar delivers his lines: “These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects,” his eyes scream out the pain. The audience, which until a while earlier was in friendly banter with the clown, is now almost dragged off their seats by the melancholic violin in the background.
What really worked in engaging the audience was the dialogue of the actor with them. Up until the climax this dialogue kept them captivated, only to allow them to sink into the tragedy which shaped soon after. Yes, for those who’ve seen Atul earlier, these are old tricks. But many an old trick can still snare a keen viewer.