Soumitra Chatterjee regrets not doing Hamlet

Legendary actor Soumitra Chatterjee has one regret in life – he could not portray the character of Shakespeare’s Hamlet which fascinates him the most.

“One of my regrets remain not to be able to portray Hamlet, the Shakespearean character which fascinates me the
most,” said Soumitra, the Dadasaheb Phalke awardee, who is equally proficient both on-stage and screen. Had he been younger by 50 years, he would have opted for the role of Hamlet, the 82-year-old said at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet yesterday.

Soumitra had essayed the protagonist’s role in theatre production Raja Lear, based on Shakespeare’s King
Lear in 2011. “I wish I could do more Shakespeare,” Soumitra said describing King Lear as his second most favorite character.

“Shakespeare and his works left an indelible impression on me for their universal appeal. I can utter ‘to be or not to be’ a thousand times sitting on the roof top,” Soumitra said.

On contemporizing Shakespearean works, he said if the structure is kept intact and the scenes are related to modern
times, there is no harm.

“Do I ever ask in the present times, if Mahabharata is contemporary or not? A true classic always passes the scrutiny of time,” Soumitra said.

“You need not stick to ‘swaralipi’ to produce a Shakespearean work, you retain some basics and leave the rest for the audience and critics,” Soumitra said while discussing the topic ‘Banglar Shakespeare’ (Shakespeare of Bengal).

He said that Tagore was greatly influenced by Shakespeare’s work and was a regular reader of his tragedies and comedies. Film and stage director Suman Mukhopadhyay, who also took part in the discussion, recalled how Soumitra chiseled the dialogue in “Raja Lear”.

“We used to go together for rehearsal and return together (for Raja Lear). We together worked on translations and everyone knows his erudition,” said Suman who had directed Raja Lear.

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“Even at times on stage if he had forgotten any dialogue, he would manage with his vast stock of Bengali words which had a classical, almost archaic resonance to retain the essence of a Shakespearean adaptation,” said Suman, Soumitra is also a noted elocutionist and poet.