She plays a clown in the adaptation of a revered Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, titled The Clown Prince.
Directed by Rajat Kapoor, the humourous play, to be staged at Ductac on Friday and Saturday, sets out to make a glorious mess by misinterpreting the famous drama.
Ask Koechlin to sum up the play in three words and she describes it as “audacious, melancholic and insane”.
These adjectives could also be ascribed to her career in Bollywood. Koechlin made her debut in 2009 with the unconventional Dev D — a modern take on the love tragedy Devdas in which she played the modern day courtesan Chandramukhi. A couple of disturbed, girl-interrupted roles later, she was featured in the blockbuster Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Her secret? zero expectations.
“I just expect to evolve as an actor,” said Koechlin in an interview ahead of her performance.
Prior to her silver screen appearances, the wife of acclaimed filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has dabbled in theatre for over two years. tabloid! gives you the excerpts from our e-mail interview with Koechlin ...
Q: What attracted you to Hamlet, which is billed as a blundering take on the classic?
A: It wasn’t so much Hamlet but the form of theatre, clowning, which I find challenging as an actor. The process of working on an improvisation based on a famous text is an exciting prospect.
Q: Did you have apprehensions of taking on a comic role that’s set to misinterpret a revered book?
A: No. Shakespeare’s Hamlet still exists regardless of our play. Ours is only one interpretation and it is not trying to be the original either.
Q: What were the challenges of playing a clown?
A: The challenge was to be funny without trying. Clowns are actually the funniest when they are being sincere. So the key was to let go of the thought that a clown has to be slap-stick and stupid all the time.
Q: How much of your performance in the play have you drawn from the knowledge you gathered from you stint at Goldsmiths, University Of London?
A: Knowledge gives you the freedom to choose wisely, but it is of no use on stage. On that platform, only experience and practice counts. So goldsmiths helped me find the path I have chosen but there’s no substitute or replacement for experience.
Q: What do you want the audience to take back from the play?
A: Expect lots of laugh tinged with a sense of sadness. You will realise that Hamlet is no hero but a victim of his own indecisiveness,
Q: Have you read the original and are you a fan of Shakespeare?
A: I have read a lot of Shakespeare and I love his plays. Hamlet is an incredible play with so many layers and such a painful resolve. His topics are still so relevant today and is a proof that he was a genius that stood the test of time.
Q: Do you think your play is an attempt to reach out and demystify Shakespeare to the youth and make it relevant?
A: No. It is not a socially relevant play. It’s an experiment to try and capture some essence of this character that has been dissected over a century in different ways. Most directors and actors are out to find their own truth and not to dictate them to others. Now, if others take away something from it then it’s just a bonus.
Q: If you had to choose between drama and Bollywood musicals. Which one would it be and why?
A: There is no question of choosing one over the other. As an actor I want to try every medium since both are challenging in different ways, I would do both provided I have proper practice and inspiration.
Q: You were seen in unconventional roles in Dev D and That Girl In Yellow Boots. How has the journey been so far?
A: It’s been a wonderful journey. However, it’s been challenging as well. I need to keep fighting so that I am not labelled or boxed into just one category. The key is to re-invent myself as an actor.
Q: Did you expect to reach this far in Bollywood despite being unconventional in your career choices and looks?
A: No I did not expect it. Even today, I try not to expect anything because you get impatient and disappointed if you set expectations. I want to evolve as an actor.
Q: When was the first time you felt like a star?
A: When production behind Zindagi [Na Milegi Dobara] asked me politely and apologetically if I would mind travelling by business class instead of first class due to the last minute booking. I didn’t even know there was a difference. In my eyes, there were only two classes, economy and super expensive.
Q: What’s your biggest fear of being on stage. Do you follow a certain ritual?
A: My biggest fear is that I will blank out on stage. Often, it happens to actor but we usually cover up well with something or the other. Before a show, I like to warm up my voice and go through the whole play in fast forward mode in my head.
Q: Is this your first time staging a play in Dubai. How do you feel about the city?
A: Yes. It’s my first time outside the Dubai airport. I am looking forward to it and I have no idea what to expect.
Q: Has your husband Anurag Kashyap seen your play and if yes, how has he rated your performance?
A: Yes he’s seen most of my plays. He doesn’t ‘rate’ my performance, he’s not a critic. He just tells me what he liked and didn’t like.
Q: Describe Hamlet in three words, keeping your interpretation in context.
A: Audacious, melancholic, insane.