“What’s Done is Done” blends Bollywood with Shakespeare in touring show

"What's Done is Done" is a Bollywood take on Shakespeare. (Courtesy Photo.)
“What’s Done is Done” is a Bollywood take on Shakespeare. (Courtesy Photo.)

The darkly decisive phrase “what’s done is done” suggests that the past can’t be rewritten, realities can’t be reimagined and there is little that mere humans like us can control.

Thankfully, this finality doesn’t apply to theater, as director Rajat Kapoor show in “What’s Done Is Done,” a complete South Asian reimagining of the classic Shakespeare play “Macbeth.” Bollywood actors Kalki Koechlin, Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey star in the play, transforming the characters into boisterous clowns and the tragic character Macbeth into “Macky B.”

Seattle production company Wicked Karma brings the touring production to the Northshore Performing Arts Center on July 31.

“People have been doing Macbeth for a while,” said Wicked Karma co-founder Christie Sanam. “But doing it in this way and also from [Kapoor]— who has a perspective from a different part of the world — is going to make it very interesting and not to be missed.”

It may be odd to imagine “Macbeth” — a tragedy with quickly unfolding themes of greed, power, lust and betrayal — as acted out by clowns with dramatic face paint. But it is precisely because “Macbeth” carries such bold themes that it requires equally bold characters both in look and in personality.

It is Kapoor’s third Shakespeare play and fourth production that utilizes clowns.

Through clowns you can directly go to the essence of something,” Kapoor told the Telegraph. “A clown gives you a kind of purity, which is very liberating.”

Kapoor has a reputation for his unique ability to make comedy out of something dark and tragic. And his darkly humorous production has been positively received in India and the United States. The play debuted in Kolkata, India last December and is now touring the United States.

Wicked Karma has brought Bollywood-themed events to Seattle for three years. Other events include monthly Bollywood dance parties called Bollysutra, flash mobs and the first Bollywood cruise dance party.

Sanam, says Bollywood has an appeal outside the South Asian diaspora and has seen the changing demographics of Seattle reflected in the crowds of people who participate in Wicked Karma events.

“Over the last three years I see more and more of a mixed crowd. It’s still primarily Indian but I see more and more non-Indians showing up as well,” Sanam said. “I think it’s fantastic more people are understanding the culture, they’re understanding that there’s just different types of entertainment out there.”

The Asian Indian community in Washington and the United States continues to grow steadily, creating a positive feedback loop of Indian community and culture in Seattle. As the population of Asian Indians in Seattle grows and flourishes, so do the businesses that cater to this community.

Sanam says that the changing Indian community will make it more feasible for her and her business partners to put on more theater and fine arts productions, instead of just nightlife events. Soon enough, Wicked Karma will be able to put on concerts and shows that were previously unattainable.

“We’re going to see a more variety of entertainment that comes here and more opportunity just because we’ll have a bigger population to sustain that,” Sanam said.

But at the heart of wanting to bring Bollywood and Indian culture into the mainstream is a deeper desire to break down barriers between cultures. Indian culture has been exoticized and othered and in the Seattle area, Sikhs wearing turbans and Muslim women wearing hijabs are still harassed and accused of being terrorists.

Sanam hopes that productions like “What’s Done is Done” sends a message.

“We want to say … hey, it’s OK to mix cultures. It’s a cool thing,” Sanam said. “There a lot of things to gain and a lot of pieces of Indian culture to appreciate.”

“What’s Done, is Done,” will play at the Northshore Performing Arts Center in Bothell, Wash. on July 31 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.

Watch clips from the play below: