Shakespeare’s work is still relevant today, says Sumeet Raghavan
Sumeet Raghavan admits to never having read any of Shakespeare’s works, but he still managed to bag the lead role in the Marathi adaptation of Hamlet, directed by Chandrakant Kulkarni. “As an actor, it [Shakespeare] was never in my curriculum. I was never fascinated by that language and it was too heavy for me. But I liked the way it was adapted in Marathi, keeping the flavour intact,” he says. The popular star of many Marathi movies like Bucket List (2018) and Hindi TV serials like Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Sumeet had previously worked with Chandrakant and that was one of the reasons why he was approached by the director years later.
It has been a year and a half since the play was first staged in April 2018, but the crew have taken a “break for the monsoon”. “It’s been a great learning experience,” Sumeet says, adding, that Shakespeare was way ahead of his time. “One thing I’ve learnt is that Shakespeare’s work is still so relevant today. He has spoken about various things in Hamlet — his connection with God, about how an actor should act and even how to appeal to a national audience. These thoughts were put forth by him some 400 years ago,” he says.
The Tragedy of Hamlet was written in the 1500s. The plot of the play revolves around the protagonist, Prince Hamlet who wants to avenge his father’s death, who was killed at the hands of his own brother, King Claudius. The play, Sumeet says, brings to the fore many moral dilemmas. “Prince Hamlet comes across as an indecisive person but actually he scrutinises his options before taking a decision,” he says. This Shakespearean play was adapted in the 1950s by Nana Jog, however, there were other adaptations in Marathi as well. “When Chandrakant decided to stage this play he felt that this script was the closest to the original version. The similes and the rhymes with which it is written is really well scripted,” says Sumeet. It was then performed at various locations including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Nasik and even Goa.
But the actor, who is nearing his 35th year as an actor, says he doesn’t relate to any of his theatre or cinema characters. “I started my career in 1985. We are actors. We play a role and get paid for it, and get out of it. It’s almost like a switch on, switch off kind of thing. I don’t see any similarity between my character and Sumeet Raghavan. The writer has his own imagination and I like to go with that.”
Speaking about the current scenario of Marathi theatre, he adds, “The beauty of Marathi theatre is that there are new writers coming up. It is because of one-act competitions and intercollegiate competitions that we see new talent. Marathi theatre is travelling all around the globe, be it Australia, Dubai (UAE) and even America and Japan. It has travelled the length and breadth of the world.”