‘Comparisons are inevitable’: Nadir Khan on directing A Few Good Men for Aadyam
The fifth edition of Aadyam, a theatre initiative by Birla group, opens with director Nadir Khan’s A Few Good Men. Written by American playwright, Aaron Sorkin, the story revolves around the court-martial of two marines who are accused of killing one of their fellow marine and the tribulations of their lawyers as they defend their client. Ahead of the play, we speak to Nadir on being the only director to have a production in all the five editions of Aadyam, adapting a classic and the challenges of working with a big ensemble that features actors like Rajit Kapur, Ira Dubey, Neil Bhoopalam, Ashwin Mushran, Danish Hussain and Kenny Desai to name a few. Excerpts:
Q: Five years in a row with Aadyam! Is it getting comfortable or is it becoming more challenging?
Nadir Khan: I am quite flattered and grateful to Aadyam and Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla to have put their trust in me for every season of Aadyam. I certainly feel a sense of pride that I am the only director to have directed for all 5 years! To be honest, it's more comfortable as we are like a family after all these years of togetherness and it's definitely more challenging because the pressure I put on myself to deliver only goes one way - up. Add that to having to follow up the biggest and most complex show I've ever done - last year's #SingIndiaSing - and it's quite a bit of pressure!
Q: In 2016, you did Twelve Angry Jurors, an adaptation of 12 Angry Men, and this year you are doing Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men. What is the bright side of redoing a classic?
NK: It's not particularly different from doing any other script. I guess one could say for certain is that the story holds and people have enjoyed it. Otherwise, it's really about your interpretation of the text and how you want to stage it.
Q: Also, why did you pick A Few Good Men? What attracted you about it?
NK: To be honest, I didn't really pick it. I was approached with the script and asked if I’d like to direct it. I read it, loved it and we pitched it for Aadyam. An engaging, tense and fast-paced story with great writing and brilliant characters. What more could one ask of a script?
Q: Are you going to stick to the script or would you be deviating from it in any way? Tell us about how you are treating the text?
NK: I would be completely sticking to the script. It's not a story that lends itself to any kind of adaptation, which is not allowed anyway. Even if it were, it would make no sense at all to even attempt it. The story is rooted within the American Military - more specifically the US Marines and the US Navy - and it would be silly to try and take it out of that world.
Q: It is said that Aaron Sorkin’s female characters are weak and lustful and that he is a sexist writer. How do you see the character of JoAnne Galloway?
NK: Any character is pretty much a blank canvas. There are certain key characteristics that are enforced, of course, but fleshing out and development of a character is what you make of it, really. An actor's instincts play a big role in that and Ira Dubey is wonderful. With JoAnne, I think we've managed to create a strong, complex and dynamic character.
Q: What are the challenges of working with a big ensemble?
NK: The biggest hurdle is managing everyone's schedules! Other than that, it's super fun and keeps you on your toes!
Q: Many have seen the Oscar-nominated film based on this text, does it help in any way that the audience is aware of the story? Or, does it become challenging that comparisons will be drawn?
NK: Comparisons are inevitable and there's no real point in allowing that to change how you approach a text. I am more than happy for people to know the story beforehand when they come to watch the play. For me, it's interesting to hear a story and told by another person. It's always going to be different since it's someone else's interpretation, instincts and experiences that come in to play.
A Few Good Men is coming to St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra this weekend, July 20 and 21. Tickets are available on insider.in