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Shakespeare Goes Global
- Nor Custom Stale His Infinite Variety
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
Shakespeare's Globe in London is currently showing off the global reach of Shakespeare by staging 37 plays in 37 languages. But more significant is the news that this year on the very birthday of the Bard of Avon, The Shakespeare Festival 2012 is most effectively bringing Shakespeare once more to the people globally. Kudos to Deborah Shaw, the director of the 'World Shakespeare Festival' who is doing this impossible possible. To celebrate the 2012 World Shakespeare festival, the Guardian and the RSC invite leading theatremakers, academics and thinkers to debate Shakespeare’s influence in their own countries.
Vishal Bhardwaj directed Omkara which is actually Shakespeare’s masterpiece Othello set in modern India. A politically-minded enforcer’s misguided trust in his lieutenant leads him to suspect his wife of infidelity. It is the indianised version of Othello. Ajay Devgan as Omkara (Othello), Kareena as Dolly (Desdemona) and Saif Ali Khan as Ishwar Langda Tyagi (Iago) brilliantly reproduced the Indian counterpart of Othello.
The other recent Hindi Shakespeare film is, Maqbool, which draws on Macbeth. Irfaan Khan as Maqbool (Macbeth) and Tabbu as Nimmi (Lady Macbeth) brilliantly made the Shakespearean play alive. The story line is excellent. Macbeth meets the Godfather in present-day Bombay. The Scottish tragedy set in the contemporary underworld of India's commercial capital; two corrupt, fortune telling policemen take the roles of the weird sisters, and "Duncan" is Abbaji, the head of a crime family. Abbaji's mistress and Maqbool plot and carry out his death; the sea plays the role of Birnham wood.
One of the more extraordinary uses of Shakespeare in India, as elsewhere, has been as rehabilitation therapy in prisons. Actor-director Kattimani, of the Rangayana group in Mysore, has successfully used translations of plays that linger on themes of guilt – notably Macbeth, Lear, Hamlet and Julius Caesar – for workshops with prisoners incarcerated for violent crime.
In collaboration with the RSC, the Brazilian director Renato Rocha explains why there's no one like the Bard when it comes to analysing Brazilian politics. In Brazil people grew up hearing wise phrases: "Love is blind", and "There are more things in heaven and earth ..." Shakespeare – the English bard,was for the Brazilian students of school and colleges one of the great geniuses of world literature, maybe the greatest. When Deborah Shaw, the director of the World Shakespeare festival, invited the Brazilian director to create a new piece called The Dark Side of Love inspired by Shakespeare, working with young artists from London, in Brazil, everybody always thinks Shakespeare is a big challenge in theatre. Yet when Shakespeare is seen on stage, it is clear that Shakespeare talks for every country, and every culture.
When the director rehearsed for the World Shakespeare festival, Two Roses for Richard III (a co-production between the RSC and our Brazilian company Bufomecânica), they decided to talk about the kind of men that will do everything to get what they want; corrupt men that can kill everybody in their way. Richard III may have been an English king from the middle ages, but anyone who sees contemporary Brazilian politics will notice parallels. In focusing corruption for power or money, Shakespearean dramas as relevant for Brazil as for England even in modern times.
More tangible and significant is the extent to which Shakespeare is thoroughly embedded in Italian culture, both at the highbrow and popular end of the cultural spectrum. Most entertaining is the comedy Troppu trafficu ppi nenti (Much Ado About Nothing), a tongue-in-cheek nod to Shakespeare's pseudo-Sicilian origins by Andrea Camilleri, the creator of Inspector Montalbano, currently being shown on BBC4. Similarly, the Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli's versions of Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew – the latter starring Richard Burton and Liz Taylor – may have reached moviegoers world-wide. But Italians have also been treated to local film adaptations, including Sud Side Story, a Sicily-set spin-off of another hugely successful Romeo and Juliet adaptation, the musical West Side Story.
One of the areas in which Italy has truly given Shakespeare new life is music. The long relationship between Italy and England – and between Italy and London in particular is most crucial to establishing Shakespeare's reputation in Italy. Eminent Italians reached London as political and religious émigrés during Shakespeare's lifetime, and although Italy was not yet in love with Shakespeare, Shakespeare might have fallen in love with Italy – quite literally. More crucially, generations of Italian writers, intellectuals and dissidents sought shelter and inspiration in London and in Shakespeare's works.
The World Shakespeare Festival in London which owes so much to Deborah Shaw, has really stirred the global imagination once again. It is really interesting, that our planet is still enthused by Shakespeare even after more than four centuries of his birth in spite of all the advancement made by science and robotic technology. Poetry and drama of Shakespeare did not really decline with the advancement of science. Enobarbas wrote about Cleopatra’s undying beauty : “Age cannot wither her/ Nor custom stale her infinite variety”. The same is applicable to Shakespeare’s own plays. Like the beauty of his fair friend, he himself grows even today in the ‘eternal lines’ of his drama all over the globe. The British empire withers away, but Shakespeare, the best of all writers of the world remains for us in the Truth of Theatre, Truth that is Beauty.
Indebeted to Sources: Shakespeare Is… The Guardian, 23 April , 2012
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