Wednesday, Oct 05, 2022

‘Iceman’ comes to India

Ahead of his Mumbai visit, Mark Gatiss speaks about playing the ‘smarter’ Holmes in Sherlock, and writing for the heroes he grew up, reading

Mark Gatiss Mark Gatiss

He has the most famous brother in TV history. Mark Gatiss (pictured) remembers the train journey from Cardiff to London, he undertook five years ago with long-time collaborator Steven Moffat and their conversations about Sherlock Holmes. Holmes was introduced to the world in 1879 through the eyes of Dr John Watson who had returned wounded from a war in Afghanistan. Nearly 130 years later, in a world reeling from the repercussions of another war in Afghanistan, “We wondered if it was possible that there is another Dr Watson returning from such a war. If yes, how would his story pan out today? Almost immediately, we wanted to tell the story of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes,” says Gatiss.
Five years since, the dream team of Gatiss and Moffat has created three seasons of Sherlock, a hugely popular adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, set in present day London. To promote Sherlock, Gatiss will be in Mumbai from December 19-21 at the city’s second Mumbai Film and Comic Convention. A favourite with comic cons, globally, Gatiss says it is his first visit to India. “I’m beginning to catch up with the Sherlock madness in India. I knew Sherlock was big, but I didn’t know it was this big,” exclaims Gatiss.
His love affair with television was apparent even as a shy teenager when he surrounded himself with fossils, comic books, horror stories and spent his days reading Doyle, HG Wells and watching every episode of Doctor Who. His career began with theatre, as he performed with the comedy troupe, The League of Gentlemen, which was known for its dark humorous sketches. Gatiss became a household name in British television when he wrote seven scripts for the modern-day revival of Doctor Who (2007 onwards) and also made an appearance in the popular show—he was the only writer to do so. “I was a huge fan of Doctor Who since I was a little boy. As an adult, to wake up every day and write for its characters was the dream,” recollects Gatiss, who recently acted in Dad’s Army, an old British sitcom turned into a movie.
The process of adaptation excites Gatiss the most. “That’s the real charm. That’s where the fun is.” For instance, the stories of Sherlock Holmes were originally set in a Victorian setting so it was fun to strip it of that, update it and see what emerges, he says,“Doyle would have appreciated the effort. He never treated his work as holy anyway.” Gatiss believes an adaptation is an extrapolation of the writer’s original ideas. “This is why people still watch JJ Abram’s Star Trek, regardless of how many times it’s remade—An adaptation honours a good story.”
Gatiss and Moffat had decided on the show’s dark tone from the start. “This was going to be more sinister yet a fun show. One of the earliest criticisms we received was from the BBC. They said: ‘Your Sherlock, he’s not very nice, is he? And we said, ‘No, he’s not! That’s what makes him appealing, doesn’t it?’,” he says.
Apart from writing for the series, Gatiss plays Mycroft Holmes, “Sherlock’s smarter brother”, in it. Gatiss based the character on Christopher Lee’s adaptation of the British bureaucrat. “We worked on the idea that Mycroft and Sherlock share a rather antagonistic relationship,” he says. Gatiss admits what makes playing the all-powerful Mycroft is fun because of the enormous amount of influence the character wields. “It’s like when I played King Charles I on stage. Once that crown is placed on your head, you don’t feel like giving it up,” he says. Gatiss will soon reprises the role of Tycho Nestoris in Game of Thrones Season 5.
When asked about Sherlock Season 4, there was a pause and laughter, “I will tell you nothing. Not one thing.” Gatiss rubbishes rumours of him promising a tragedy. “If I say one thing, there will be six different stories out, before I know it.” In Sherlock, Irene Adler reveals that Jim Moriarty’s nickname for Mycroft was ‘The Iceman’, and true enough, he can keep secrets. However, he does let out that the season four special that will be aired on January 15, is ready.“It gets tougher to shoot Sherlock now because everyone’s schedule is getting packed. I plan to get a lot of writing done to stay ahead of the show,” he says.

Celebrating Shakespeare

It’s celebration time for all William Shakespeare fans in the city. Pune International Centre (PIC), in collaboration with National Film Archive of India (NFAI), is back with Timeless Shakespeare: A Festival of Films to mark the 450th birth anniversary of the greatest playwright of all times. The film festival will take place between December 12 and 15 at NFAI auditorium. It will open with Hamlet (1948) after the inauguration ceremony on December 12 at 5.30 pm, followed by three days of free film screenings from the next day, starting 10:30 am onwards.
The four-day event has been organised to commemorate and pay homage to the legendary English poet, playwright, actor and pre-eminent dramatist, also known as the Great Bard of Avon, who has inspired several filmmakers around the world. The 10 award-winning films to be screened during the festival include classics from different countries, for instance, John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare Wallah, a Merchant Ivory production, Falstaff/Chimes at Midnight by Orson Welles, Baz Luhrum’s Romeo + Juliet and Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool.
Apart from film screenings, a music concert Serenade for Shakespeare by city-based group Chamber Singers will be held, wherein they will perform a choral selection of Shakespearean text. The festival will also have a speech followed by a discussion by professional screenwriter-actor, Anjum Rajabali (Ghulam, Rajneeti) on the topic The Challenges of Adapting Shakespeare into a Screenplay.


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First published on: 19-12-2014 at 01:00:06 am
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