So , in 2016 the world commemorates 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare!
I had a very troubled relationship with Shakespeare since the time I came to know of him.Much of it stemmed from the fact that he was prescribed reading not just in school but also what my Dad considered culturally & socially sound.. And I hated being told at an early age of ‘what & who to read’.
We did ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in school for the ICSE examinations in English Literature. The only high and enjoyable point of the two years of reading Shakespeare was the school drama we did. I got to play Portia and was thrilled to bits because a ‘she’ was the central character, who was brilliant…you see she had brains too alongwith breasts. Somehow Portia kinda set me on the path of not wanting to have been born a man. Compared to her, Antonio seemed pretty dumb and un-macho. I mean, he first gets into debt and then mopes about relentlessly. While Portia is all revved up and slices the wily Shylock with her brains. Hey, you don’t need balls to be balls-y that’s what Portia told me.
I scored exceedingly well in the standard 10th board examinations with a then unheard of 95% in English Literature & Language. It did nothing much to excite me to read Shakespeare. Rather, I remember being gleeful about reading Mills & Boon !
College happened with me choosing to study Political Science and Economics. We had English Literature as a mandatory subject and were assigned to study ‘ As You Like It” and ‘Julius Caesar”. The classes were a riot with the professor, afflicted by a regional/colloquial pronunciation malady, ( couldnt say ‘sh’ , but instead made a “ss’ sound) referring to the bard as ‘Sexpeare”.
And then in a 1985 visit to London, I watched ‘Othello’ by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford with Ben Kingsley & David Suchet in the lead roles. The performances were stellar! The outpourings of grief and rage were spellbinding. ‘Othello’ took on a whole new meaning.And I was hooked. I sought out the Bard….set out on a journey of discovering his greatness. It’s a journey I haven’t reached the end of as yet. Each step reveals a previously unnoticed gem.
That is also perhaps the reason why I am such a huge fan of Vishal Bharadwaj, an Indian film maker. Somehow I feel he is on the same journey as mine! Undoubtedly brilliant, its in his adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet, in his movies ‘Maqbool’, ‘Omkara’ and ‘Haider’, that the cinematic vision of the man shines through. The movies ,have today , a massive fan following. Vishal Bharadwaj, like the Bard, also has understood the significance and paramountcy of music in the telling of tales. Besides exceptional acting and contemporary relevance of Bharadwaj’s Shakespeare Trilogy,his musical repertoire is extraordinary. Well, actually he started out his career as a music composer and who can forget the haunting beauty of the music of ‘Maachis’!
Here are my favorites songs/musical scores from:
Time to say au revoir, guys. Oh, my favorite Shakespeare play is Hamlet and Shahid Kapoor in ‘ Haider’ does a brilliant job of it, reminiscent of the extraordinary stage performance of Ben Whishaw, ( he is Q in Skyfall) which perhaps re -set popular conception of what age Hamlet should be! It was a role attempted earlier by older actors like Laurence Olivier ,Ian Mc Kellan, Kenneth Branagh.
And yes, much older and wiser today, I would say Shakespeare is a must for children. Here’s how you can make reading him fun ( I wish we had this in my time!)” How to teach your children Shakespeare’ by Ken Ludwig.