I’m still finding my clown: Tillotama Shome

Tillotama Shome, who plays complex characters on screen, puts on the red nose in a Macbeth adaptation, What’s Done Is Done.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Updated: November 5, 2016 12:00 am
Tillotama Shome, What’s done is done, Macbeth, witch, Lady Macbeth, rajat kapoor's play, art and culture, india news, indian express Tillotama Shome in What’s Done Is Done, she is playing a clown for the first time. (Source: Jaydeep Sarkar)

As Macbeth faces the dark truth that he has murdered King Duncan, his wife shows him the other side of reality. “What’s done is done,” she says, with finality. From this definitive statement comes the title of Rajat Kapoor’s play, What’s Done Is Done. Kapoor adapts William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a story of ambition and greed mired in supernatural magic, as clown theatre. A stellar cast of Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Mansi Multani and Jim Sarbh is joined by Tillotama Shome. Shome, best known for her layered portrayals on screen, puts on the red nose of the clown for the first time. She plays a witch and Lady Macbeth. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What brings you back to the stage from films?

I was drawn to the possibility of slowly relinquishing my fear of being on stage again by doing this play. I was on stage a few years ago and felt a sense of not knowing where I was and why I was saying or doing things. Despite the director’s generosity, I was frozen. I stopped acting on stage after that and focussed on films but it bothered me. I decided to go through the audition process with Rajat Kapoor because he inspires a sense of trust which was critical for this experiment.

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How is playing a clown different from the conventional actor?

We may all be in clown make-up but we are at varying degrees of finding our own clown. I, for one, am still finding it. I thought I had found it fleetingly when, during a rehearsal, I was a clown who did not want to go on stage and be a clown. I felt a lot of truth in that. Rajat asked me to develop it, but I could not take it further. Then, you pull another string and see where it takes you. It is unravelling a character from vantage points that are unfamiliar. I am still discovering my clown.

Your journey as an actor has been varied and meandering.

I started in 1997 as part of the Drama Society of Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi. I joined a theatre company, Asmita, run by Arvind Gaur. The films Monsoon Wedding and Shadows of Time happened. Just when I thought I preferred films, I went and studied drama therapy in New York for four years. And then, again, decided to leave the well-planned academic life to act in films. So, I landed in Mumbai seven years ago.

Rajat Kapoor has a unique way of functioning, wherein actors are free to improvise. How was the experience of creating the play?

Madness. Utter madness. I thought I would collapse. I am a very high-strung person. I could not have asked for a better process to challenge that sense of panic. Everyday, you come for rehearsal and are given a thought or a line and asked to go up and explore it then and there. I often did not get up. But you have to eventually get up if you want to be a part of the play. And I did, despite myself. This is the closest I have come to bungee jumping. Each time I got up, a chip came off that block of fear. It helped that my co-actors were insanely generous. Interestingly, scraping my knees on stage greatly bettered my performance in front of the camera. So I continue to scrape my knee on stage… I am learning.

You play a girl who is brought up as a boy in Anup Singh’s Qissa. Your role in Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj is completely different. How do you choose your roles?

With certain projects, you fall on your face and hurt yourself but it expands your sense of self. I hate and love that kind of falling. Qissa, which affirms the tender while telling a rather brutal tale, drew me in. The character I play, Kanwar, was a creature I had not met before and I was madly in love and terrified of heartbreak. Bonnie in A Death in the Gunj was light and laughed with ease, not something I get offered often. There are some basic things that need to be in place — the script, the part, the director and the money. A good script can turn into an insipid film, but an insipid screenplay has never turned itself into a good film.