Fan-ning O’er It: Shakespearecha Mhatara (Shakespeare’s Old Man)
Posted on 17 November, 2016 by Team Wishberry
Based on William Shakespeare’s play, King Lear
Written and Directed by Makarand Deshpande
A voiceover of Makarand Deshpande, the Hindi theatre veteran, at the beginning of the play, announced how he was mesmerised by the fact that 400 years later, William Shakespeare's King Lear was still celebrated and revered in all its different adaptations across the world. But, he was more fascinated by its earlier Marathi adaptation, Natsamrat, by V. V. Shirwadkar. He wanted to explore his own interpretation and thus was born Shakespearecha Mhatara, Deshpande’s Ansh Theatre Group’s first Marathi production and his own directorial debut on Marathi theatre.
The play begins with the King (Makarand Deshpande) concluding a war in his victory. He returns home and and as his three beloved daughters being tending to his wounds, he announces that he will now divide his empire amongst them and retire from his throne. The youngest daughter’s comment on the hollow relationship between the father-daughters, angers the mighty King and she is ordered to leave. The eldest alongwith the second daughter, happy with an increased share, eventually go behind the King’s back to announce their coronation while he is in the woods travelling with the jester. The jester then informs the heartbroken King that his decision will affect centuries to come and to prove his point, he brings the King in the present day world as a middle class father. In the present day, he gets a glimpse of the consequences of his decision.
There can never be doubt about Makarand Deshpande’s direction and writing. He is one of the best in the business and he proves that with this one; in fact, he stamps his authority on that like a boss. He has utilised a mix of prose, poetry and sometimes even sing-a-song in this play and fuses it with movement incredibly well. The adaptation of the classic has been done well, and the adapted writing has been translated effectively onto the stage.
Two characters, the King and the jester, are on stage for most of the play. One of them was Makarand Deshpande and his transition from being a victorious King of vast lands to a father who lost everything and then to a hallucinating former College Principal is really done well. He is sublime, to say the least. The jester performed by Rohit Haldikar matches up to Deshpande’s magnanimous presence on stage, and that is something he should carry proudly with him. He is funny, his comic timing is pretty good and the best is that he never lets his energy drop despite being on stage for almost all of the play. The three daughters have done justice to their characters and their transitions. The other characters bring in a lovely comic relief and ease the building intensity of the play for a short while.
For anyone trying to learn how to do the set design and lights design for stage, this play is study material. The way the set is designed brings in the grandeur required for it to look like a centuries old palace to small and big stage. The same walls of the palace convert conveniently into a modern day house. Hell, they created a moon by projecting it on the backdrop to depict the night. The lights are designed in such a way that your focus is barely shifted from what the play wants you to focus on. The colours they use, the intensity they accentuate, and the mellow aspect of the play it accompanies is laudable. The best play of the set and light design combination is this circular, curved mirror that hangs in the backdrop. One light falls on it and it effects to signifying time travel. It is brilliant to watch as more modern tech is being employed on stage without taking away its soul.
Music is great, especially the fact that not all of it is pre-recorded. Most background score is played out live during the play. Live background score avoids mistimed music and it truly makes for a great experience. Music definitely is another upside to this play.
A play is to be performed on stage in all its glory, and that is how it lives on for generations and centuries. Exactly what Shakespeare has achieved. Makarand Deshpande with Shakespearecha Mhatara has etched his name in the list of amazing Shakespearean adaptations. I hope they are planning to run this one forever. For all you know, Marathi theatre has got its next Natsamrat in the form of Deshpande’s mighty old man.