In love with theatre, after 'Nothing Like Lear' at BITS Pilani

Rosamma Thomas

Pilani (Rajasthan), Oct 9 (IANS) In a first of sorts, technology and science scholars at BITS-Pilani got the opportunity to interact closely with career theatre people on campus at the inaugural of their three-day maiden theatre festival. As the premiere offering, "Nothing Like Lear", a modern adaptation of the Bard of Avon's famous tragedy, was a treat for the technology and science students, who relished every moment of it.

The solo, one-act play was a 90-minute affair -- and the 1,800-capacity auditorium on the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani campus was Monday packed with a rapt student audience that guffawed at times but plunged into silence and sorrow at others.

The audience laughed out aloud with delight at the sexual innuendoes that were plentiful, and revelled too in the bawdy humour of the play, directed by Rajat Kapoor and featuring Vinay Pathak.

"Nothing Like Lear" is a modern adaptation of the classic, an attempt to take from Shakespeare's "King Lear" the major themes - betrayal, the relationship with an illegitimate brother, and the fraught ties with children, the vicissitudes of life and family - and portray these as unfolding in the life of a professional clown.

Vinay Pathak would enter the role, then just as suddenly emerge from it, and question the audience's empathy with the character he essayed.

The humour was often slapstick and the actor at one point even let his pants roll to the floor, revealing underpants with a large Batman insignia strategically placed.

Even so, the theme of the play bordered on tragedy, and there were instances when the clown cried, uncontrollably.

The audience sat in rapt attention, guffawing at times but plunged into silence and sorrow at others.

After the play, students were invited to an interaction with the director, actor and others involved in the lighting of the stage and the sound management.

Most of the questions pertained to how Kapoor and Pathak had forayed into theatre, and how they planned their work.

The answers, patiently delivered, told of a life of commitment to art and drama, and of not thinking of audience responses at the time of grappling with the script of the play.

Kapoor also spoke of the engagement with friends and colleagues -- he and Pathak have worked in close collaboration for nearly two decades and experienced a whole host of triumphs and failures together -- of reading Shakespeare several times over, identifying with the classic deeply, and feeling the liberty to take from it what pleased them.

One student wondered why theatre was not more widely watched and performed, and said she had never before witnessed a play. Kapoor, in response, said he had also never watched a play until he was nearly 18.

The students mobbed the actors soon after the interaction, and there was much discussion for long even after the session was formally over.

Kapoor was later seen playing cricket with a few students past midnight.

Many of the students were obviously thrilled with the whole experience.

Akanksha, a second-year engineering student, said the Hindi drama club on campus was quite active, performing two plays in each semester.

"But it is rarely that one gets to watch professional theatre," she said.

This was the first time that BITS was hosting career theatre people on campus.

"The festival is meant to foster an interest in theatre among students whose primary courses of study are technology and science," said B. Geetha, head of the department of humanities.

After Pathak's sterling performance, many students confessed to being quite in awe of theatre.

One sprightly girl was seen leaping in joy, having just shaken hands with Pathak.