Partap Sharma’s drawing room spills over with theatre lovers. Gerson Da Cunha, Alyque Padamsee, Dolly Thakore are among the hand-picked guests invited to hear his rendering of Macbeth, the third of his remarkable single voice recordings of Shakespeare’s plays.
Julius Caesar and Merchant
of Venice have been critical and commercial successes, with Julius Caesar making it to the Rhythm House bestseller list. Macbeth is a bigger challenge.
Of school days
It was Macbeth that triggered Sharma’s first forays into theatre. “We hated Shakespeare at school till one day our English teacher cameprancing into the classroom wearing a black gown, shrieking, ‘When shall we three meet again?’,” he reminisces.
“We were struck dumb. We realised he was quoting the play when he pointed to a boy telling him to read the witch. Macbeth has been inside me since then. Performing it is like freeing myself from an albatross.”
With his penchant for historical drama, Sharma plunged into reading Holinshead’s Chronicles, Shakespeare’s source for historical material. He learnt the story is set in Scotland where Macbeth ruled from 1040-1057, that he had killed Duncan on the battlefield to succeed him as king.
“Then I made an amazing discovery,” continues Sharma. “In Act I Scene II, a captain describes Macbeth and Banquo ‘as canons overcharged with double cracks’. But the canon didn’t exist in 1057! It was invented in Southern Europe in 1300. Despite his brilliance as a writer, Shakespeare has erred!”
If the challenge in Merchant of Venice was for a baritone to emote three female voices, in Macbeth the challenge lies in having three witches speak simultaneously. “We had to record thrice, pitching the voice differently each time,” he says.
“Pundit Vinayak Bhagwat of the Gwalior gharana made me conscious of hitting each note with clarity while singing. I used this to expand voice range and lung capacity.” The solo recordings are a feat for Sharma who has been suffering from emphysema since 2002.
Emphysema patients rarely speak long without gasping for breath. So to performall the characters of a play is little short of a miracle. Braveheart In 2004, doctors said nothing more could be done.
Says Sharma, “I said ‘You’ve done your best, let me seewhat I can do’. “Tibetan herbal medicine has helped. I’ve been in and out of ICU five times in four years but managed to get off almost all alopathic medicine.But I still use oxygen. In 2004 doctors gave me six months. In 2008 I’m still around!”