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Woah! Meet Kalki Koechlin as Lady Macbeth

Kalki Koechlin turns into Lady Macbeth for Rajat Kapoor’s new play

Updated
Entertainment
4 min read
Kalki Koechlin as Lady Macbeth in Rajat Kapoor’s <i>What Is Done Is Done!</i>

Even as accolades poured in for her sensitive performance in Waiting, a film in which she acted with stalwart Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin appeared on stage in Mumbai as Lady Macbeth in the Rajat Kapoor-directed What Is Done Is Done!

An adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays, Macbeth, Kapoor’s play once again has down-and-out clowns producing a play within a play. (His earlier ‘clown productions’ were based on Hamlet, King Lear and As you Like It) After much deliberation, clowns Pedro and Hulio of What Is Done Is Done! decide to make ‘a dark comedy’ with fellow clowns performing the lead roles.

So Macbeth is a simple Macky B to begin with. And though Pedro and Hulio’s Lady Macbeth is a complex combination of Shakespeare’s three witches and the ambitious wife of the Scottish general, with three actresses enacting her intriguing persona, she has  the qualities of a contemporary seductress too.

With Tillottama Shome and Sheena Khalid, Kalki Koechlin projects both, a ruthless Lady Macbeth and a modern-day, flirtatious socialite.
Ranvir Shorey as Macbeth with Lady Macbeth played by Kalki Koechlin, Tillottama Shome and Sheena Khalid
Ranvir Shorey as Macbeth with Lady Macbeth played by Kalki Koechlin, Tillottama Shome and Sheena Khalid

Catching up with Kalki, we ask her about her role as Lady Macbeth and her love for theatre.

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Q: Director Rajat Kapoor says that when he produces a play he starts out with only an idea, and the play evolves through improvisation during rehearsals. So, how did your role in What is Done Is Done! take shape?

Kalki:

It was tough, more so because Tillottama, Sheena and I had to work in tandem to portray one character. So what we would do is read the scenes from Shakespeare’s play before the rehearsal and then, with clowning as our reference point, enact Shakespeare in a contemporary context without any text in hand.

For instance, when Macbeth comes home after many months of battle, we welcome him as any wife would who is meeting her husband after a long time. And when our husband announces he will be king, we divide the emotions between us…one goes crazy, another begins plotting…each one comes up with a different reaction. It would get a little confusing at times, but we worked as a team and helped each other out with the lines.

Ranvir Shorey as Macbeth and Kalki Koechlin as Lady Macbeth
Ranvir Shorey as Macbeth and Kalki Koechlin as Lady Macbeth
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Q: In your play, the three witches of Macbeth are incorporated in Lady Macbeth’s persona … In some scenes they are shown as having fun, munching nuts and passing naughty remarks about the men.

Kalki: The playful aspect was borrowed from Hecate, their leader who wasn’t in the play.

Q: As wife of Macbeth, your character is not just ambitious but flirtatious as well…

Kalki:

Lady Macbeth was like that. She used her sexuality and was always putting up a false front. “Let your smile hide what is in your heart,” she says in one scene.

Q: Did you have any reservations about sharing the stage with two other actresses to play Lady Macbeth?

Kalki: No, never! Theatre is all about working as a team. As one of the clowns, Hulio says in one scene, “Theatre is more important than individual lines”.

Vinay Pathak and Jim Sarabh play Pedro and Hulio with endearing charm
Vinay Pathak and Jim Sarabh play Pedro and Hulio with endearing charm
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Q: Theatre requires intensive rehearsals with a team (a large one in this case). How do you balance your film commitments and theatre?

Kalki: I was unemployed when I did this play so I had a lot of time.

Q: While you do roles of substance on stage, your characters on the large screen are generally also well-etched. If you had to choose between theatre and cinema, which one would you choose?

Kalki: I would not choose. I would do both. Theatre is a good training ground for actors. You have to constantly work on your body language, learn to interact with other actors and bring spontaneity to your performance according to the audience you perform for.

Working in a film requires a lot of internalizing. You have to do a lot of research and tap into an internal emotion. You have to know the graph of your character really well because you don’t always shoot the scenes chronologically so you must know what degree of emotion has to be conveyed at different stages of shooting.
A poster of <i>The Living Room </i>written and directed by Kalki
A poster of The Living Room written and directed by Kalki

Q: What would you choose if the dates for a film clashed with those of a play?

Kalki: I would choose the more interesting project. Last year for instance I did no film for six months so I could direct a play I had written—The Living Room. What I choose to do depends on my priority at any given point.

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(Alpana Chowdhury is a Mumbai-based, independent journalist and a writer of two biographies – Madhubala: Masti and Magic and Dev Anand: Dashing, Debonair)

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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