Theatre director Nadir Khan is always ready for a good story. Earlier this year, theatre person Devika Sahani of The Dragon Rose Project sent him one that he couldn’t put down. He felt the nudge to bring it on stage. A Few Good Men, which he has directed, is now set to open the theatre initiative, Aadyam 2019, in Mumbai and Delhi. “I didn’t pick the script, it picked me,” says Khan.
The story was written by American playwright Aaron Sorkin, according to legend, on cocktail napkins while working as a bartender. A Few Good Men is famous as a 1992 Hollywood film starring Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, which was nominated for four Oscars and five Golden Globes and gave the world the iconic comeback, “You can’t handle the truth”. Cruise plays a lazy young lawyer who finds himself opposite a battle-hardened commander (Nicholson) of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in a case that involves a dead marine and two others in the dock.
Khan had watched the film but did not give it a second thought till he was handed the script. “I hope this is what the audiences will share — that you know the story and have seen it in the light of one particular director in one particular medium. It is quite exciting for me to see a different take on the same thing. It is like the retelling of a good story.
You want to hear it again by somebody else because there is always a difference,” says Khan. He has directed plays that were made famous by films before. In 2015, he directed The God of Carnage, a script that Roman Polanski had turned into the film Carnage. The following year, he picked up another legal drama, 12 Angry Men, turned it into a play, titled 12 Angry Jurors, and managed to keep audiences, who knew the ending, hooked to every moment. “12 Angry Men was Hollywood of the 1950s while A Few Good Men is Hollywood of the 1990s. While there is a bit of pressure involved because some comparisons are inevitable, it is true that one of the reasons I pick a play is that it is amazing storytelling and writing,” says Khan.
12 Angry Jurors was carried on the shoulders of strong performers such as Rajit Kapur, Sohrab Ardeshir, Deven Khote, Devika Shahani and Rohit Malkani. Khan brings in another ensemble cast for A Few Good Men. Kapur plays Lt Col Nathan Jessep, the head of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, while Neil Bhoopalam is the lawyer Daniel A Kaffee, and Ira Dubey essays the persistent lawyer Lt Cmdr Joanne Galloway. Other actors include Danish Hussain, Ashwin Mushran, Tavish Bhattacharya, Junaid Khan and Sukant Goel. “The great thing is that when you get the calibre of actors we have, you can get straight into detailed script work, blocking and fleshing out the play,” says Khan.
His theatre is marked by sharp performances, brisk pace, impactful moments and precise stage design. While The God of Carnage and 12 Angry Jurors happened in one room, Anand Express (2017) was a road journey of a group of boys who were taking the ashes of their friend to Anand in Gujarat. The play created the shots in location with abstract and fluid designs that transformed and evolved as the play progressed. “A Few Good Men is little more realistic though we have gone abstract at times, because there are a number of locations,” he adds.
Khan, who studied English literature at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai (1995-2000), went on to co-found Q Theatre Productions (QTP) and is a partner in The Industrial Theatre Co. He has directed five plays for Aadyam, including the musical #SingIndiaSing last year, about a talent contest where only four singers, picked from among thousands of aspirants, are pitted against one other. He has acted in 27/11, Epilogue and Hard Places for Rage Productions as well as Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Hayavadana for the Industrial Theatre Co, and All My Sons for QTP. Khan also makes radio drama for the UK and has produced and acted in over 20 radio productions. His recent work was the Tumanbay Series 1, 2& 3 and the award-winning A Suitable Boy and Q&A.
His plays have a strong social context, such as the meaning of justice in 12 Angry Jurors. Is A Few Good Men intended to highlight the need for the armed forces to question authority? “I enjoy working with good stories and great writing. A Few Good Men does have a huge resonance in the political construct today but I didn’t pick the script because of those similarities. I am happy that those similarities exist,” he says.
A Few Good Men opens at St Andrews Auditorium in Mumbai on July 20. Tickets available on Paytm and Insider.in