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Shakespeare Wallahs

Shakespeare is hip and happening with more people getting their fix from the playwright


Shakespeare was the David Dhawan of his time Vaishali Bhisht

PHOTO: R.V. MOORTHY

TEXT VS. PERFORMANCE Should Shakespeare be studied or watched?

William Shakespeare has always been happening and never more so than now. While, on the one hand, there are endless arguments about his relevance in this day and age - how does one relate to something written by a white man 400 years ago - his works have become the hottest selling proposition in the world of entertainment.

Considering the number of movies based on Shakespeare - from Baz Luhrmann's MTV-style Romeo + Juliet to Ethan Hawke playing the brooding prince of Denmark and shooting the play within the play on a handicam, the Bard of Avon can easily pick up best screenplay Oscars.

Bollywood has not been far behind with Vishal Bharadwaj's brilliant adaptation of Macbeth, Maqbool.

The super intense Irrfan played Macbeth while the lovely Tabu played Lady Macbeth. Naseeruddin Shah who with Om Puri played the witches was of the opinion that the plot of Macbeth can also be set against the Hindi film industry.

After Macbeth, Bharadwaj has set his sights on the domestic tragedy, Othello.

Vinay Verma, of the theatre group Sutradhar, says, "Shakespeare can never die and if I were to adapt a Shakespearean play it would be Macbeth for its mix of jealousy, ambition and greed." Vaishali Bhisht who directed A Midsummer Night's Dream with tiny tots essaying the role of the rude mechanicals, Puck and Oberon with gusto categorically states, "Shakespeare is meant to be performed. ""It is when Shakespeare is taught in class and you have silly questions like `who said the following to who, when and why' that the magic is totally killed. Shakespeare then becomes irrelevant and distant.

In performance, you can make it visually interesting by changing the time and place like we did Comedy of Errors set in Mumbai and Goa." "The emotions Shakespeare dealt with — jealousy, love, ambition, greed — will be there as long as there are human beings and so are universal. When you study Shakespeare as text, critically analysing every word, you lose out on the fun of the play. You must remember that this was a very popular playwright and he knew how to talk to the highest and the lowest common denominator - he was truly the David Dhawan of his time!

His plays have enough material for a 150-episode soap!"

Supriya Karunakaran of a theatre group also teaches English Literature to degree students and admits the gap between "Shakespeare as text and as performance. In terms of language, the focus has shifted and it is a task to make him comprehensible for contemporary students. As far as literature and theatre goes, one can never do away with him."

Crescentia who is doing her second year graduation and is planning to study psychology is impressed with the way the Bard "has brought out the psyche of the individual." Padmini doing her first year literature is convinced that "Shakespeare is pretty cool.

I think he is smart, the way he has lasted all these years." For Manisha who has read almost all the plays, "he is so cool and out of this world. I loved Romeo and Juliet — it is so tragically romantic!"

For Mitika, also in her first year of literature studies, "Every line is awesome. It is almost like learning a new language. It is great fun and we talk in Shakespearean language for effect — you know thou, dost and all that."

As Vaishali comments, "Shakespeare could be really bawdy at times," and Shakespeare's rather colourful turn of phrase is used to good effect by hip and happening collegians.

Vaishali Bhisht, who directed A Midsummer Night's Dream with tiny tots, says, "There is a Shakespeare revival happening, with many schools looking at annual Shakespeare events."

That would be the perfect introduction to the Bard and instead of feeling like Swati doing her third year of graduation, that "he is rather overrated," you would realise in the immortal lines of Veeru, "Is story mein drama hai, emotion hai... .

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER

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