A forthcoming production of Shakespeare's Hamlet, in Dubai, promises a slightly bizarre and unexpected Bollywood interpretation of the famous tragedy.
Hamlet - The Clown Prince, directed by Rajat Kapoor and starring well-known actors such as Atul Kumar, has been performed worldwide and is now making a stop at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, on Friday and Saturday.
The story follows a group of clowns attempting to formulate their own production of Hamlet. While doing so, they take the original text, "willfully sabotage it, misinterpret it" and somehow find new meanings in it.
The challenge, according to Kapoor, was not in taking on such a well-known play in this way, but in whether or not the team could bring something new to the table.
"I was very clear that I did not want to do a traditional rendering of Hamlet. That would be so boring," says Kapoor. "I can not even bear to watch it, much less do it. I think our clowns brought something of us to the play and yet we are true to the play, I think."
The audience is promised a slapstick journey, during which important scenes have been taken out and the order of events jumbled, while "significant truths" are uncovered with an attempt to make the play relevant today.
Kapoor, then, promises to offer something that has never been experienced before.
"The play keeps swinging from absolute madness to a moment that would move you to tears," he says. "While we decided to make our Hamlet unfold through clowns, I was very clear we must not lose the essence of the play. Even though the play is uproariously funny, I didn't want to lose sight of the pathos of Hamlet and of Ophelia."
The play first opened in September 2009 and has since been performed about 150 times.
The idea for producing Hamlet with clowns began after Kapoor directed a previous play called C For Clown - a story about five clowns.
In Hamlet - The Clown Prince, there are six clowns on stage bringing the production team to 10, including the director and backstage support. The set is a simple one and takes just one hour to assemble.
"The entire play is easy to travel. We pack everything in two suitcases and off we go," says Kapoor. "Hamlet has done more shows than any other play that I have been a part of and it is still alive."
Having wanted to tackle Hamlet for quite some time, Kapoor says he will leave it up to the crowd to make up their own minds. "It is for the audience to take what they are capable of from [a] work - whether film, a play or a painting. But this I can promise you: it does tell the story of Hamlet, in a way that you can understand, which is a difficult task if you were to read the play," he says.
The tragedy of a man
Hamlet is one of the most famous characters in the world of theatre and needs no introduction, says the actor Atul Kumar, who plays the role. "He, for me, sums up all that is a man and theatre and the perils of existing in this world," says Kumar. "It is a play I have been wanting to act in since I was a teenager. In fact, I think I am not done with him - I need to do this play in other forms again and again."
Audiences, he adds, should expect a night full of humour, despite all the tragedy of Hamlet and the "abyss and darkness of his soul".
The main theme the production aims to explore is the sheer irrelevance of the existence of the man. The experience changed his views of Hamlet, says Kumar.
"More than anything else, it was the finer details and nuances that I completely missed out on while reading it from the outside and, once inside his world, I also experienced parallels with my own life which I tried to explore and express in his garb."
• Hamlet - The Clown Prince will show on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm at Ductac. Tickets cost Dh150 to Dh350. Call 04 341 4777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org