Whether we attended a school the United States or India or anywhere else in the world, at some point we were introduced to a mythological story of great cultural influence. Odds are most of us forgot details of what we have read way back in our studious heyday and only vaguely remember general concepts in our latter years. In the Western world, we are all generally familiar with Oedipus, the mythical Greek king of Thebes who fulfilled a prophecy predicting he would murder his father and marry his mother. Halfway around the world, Indians are all aware of The Mahabharata, one of two ancient Sanskrit epics containing significant philosophical material that established the foundation of an entire culture. There is an actor/director/writer – Ravi Kapoor – who has recently taken the story of Oedipus and a slice of The Mahabharata and reintroduced them on screen and on the stage for the masses – without having to reread hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of dense material. Mr. Kapoor recently screened The 5 (starring Samrat Chakrabarti, Sunil Malhotra, Parvesh Cheena, Vik Sahay, Meera Simhan, and David Paul Francis) at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles in April before introducing O!edipus (written and directed by Mr. Kapoor) at Artworks during a three-show run in June.
Mr. Kapoor (Crossing Jordan, 24, Touch, My Name Is Earl) talks to us about how The Mahabharata and Oedipus influenced The 5 and O!edipus and provides a little insight about his career.
Parimal M. Rohit: Who are you and where do you hail from?
Ravi Kapoor: I am a human-animal who has an adopted the name of Ravi Kapoor to give definition to my existence and identity. I hail from the Great Spirit but was humanized in Liverpool, England.
PMR: Where are you right now?
RK: The City of Angels and Pointless Desires.
PMR: How did you get from where you are from to where you are right now?
RK: I followed my love who wanted to be home.
PMR: If your mom were to draft up a biodata about you, what would be the three most impressive entries?
RK: His primary school teacher told him his smile would take him far. He is very talented at mimicking the sound of the goats in India. He’s very good at mimicking the sound of monkeys not only from India but also from all over the world.
PMR: What three words best describe your creative style (be it as an actor, director, and/or writer)?
RK: Quirky. Connected. Theatrical.
PMR: What three words describe your two most recent projects (The 5 and O!edipus)?
RK: Presentational. Paranoid. Mad.
PMR: How is your creative style prominent in your two most recent projects?
RK: Lots of sight gags. Genre bending. Bold compositions. Tightly composed framing. Underpinned with pain, fear and desire.
PMR: You've made relevant again epic stories that many of us have not interacted with since we were young. How do you make your stories fresh enough for the audience to connect with these epics?
RK: I try to humanize them and make them dramatically pedestrian.
PMR: Similarly, why did you choose The Mahabharata and the story of Oedipus to serve as the basis of your two recent projects?
RK: The Mahabharata because the idea of five brothers living on the QT with one wife and then having to do battle seemed cool, like a gangster movie. Oedipus because I wanted to turn a serious epic into a clown play and it was a story I knew quite well, having planned but failed to do a “serious” production more twenty years ago.
PMR: What other culturally relevant stories would you like to interpret on screen or for the stage?
RK: Would like to do something with Dante’s Inferno. What’s funnier than getting a tour of hell!
PMR: Which epic or story has had the great impact on your life (either professional or personal)?
RK: Hamlet has always been a pain in my professional butt. First because of wanting to and realizing that I probably never would play the dane! And then because I wrote a modern verse version set in a curry house, called Prince of Delhi Palace, which had a million readings and workshops but no full production.
PMR: What have you done in your professional life that made you proud?
RK: Writing and directing my first play Oh Sweet Sita still stands out. I realizing I could make my own thing and express my own voice.
PMR: Describe the most awkward moment you have had as a writer/director/actor?
RK: I have a terrible habit of when meeting or working with well known actors, not recognizing who they are, and then asking them to repeat their names multiple times: “I’m sorry, what was your name again, I didn’t quite hear it?”
PMR: Who has had the most influence on your career?
RK: Luck and Unluck. (I know that’s not a word or a person but I’m sticking to it.)
PMR: Where do you see yourself in five years?
RK: Hanging out in a bar in Brooklyn with Vincent Gallo talking about how nobody appreciates us genius auteurs, and Vincent Gallo asking me to repeat my name for him again because he didn’t quite get it.
PMR: What is your motto?
RK: Try to follow the art because the rest is fart. But don’t turn down a good paycheck if it’s waved multiple times right in front of your face. Because then you’d just be stupid. But make sure you can still live with yourself and you don’t screw up your long-term prospects.... Oh God, this is turning into a long nuanced motto!
PMR: Where online can fans find out more about you?
RK: IMDB I guess.... Are you telling me I need to get a website set up?