Shakespeare 's Ashes: An Analogy, Rise of the Phoenix
William Shakespeare - the master story weaver continues to inspire many over the centuries. The range of emotions portrayed in his writings has so much relevance even today that they have been adapted over diverse geographies. Worldwide writers, academicians, theatre lovers and audiences are drawn towards his works. British Council, Shakespeare Society of India and Ashoka University organised a two day Conference with an intriguing title, Shakespeare's Ashes to celebrate his 400th death anniversary.
Professor Jonathan Gill Harris’ opening remarks on the Conference were interesting; he said though death is considered to be morbid but Shakespeare lovers call for Celebration of Shakespeare's afterlives. He continues to live with us through his excellent craftsmanship. He was a master of jugaaḍ and wove excellent themes through his works. But, why ashes? As Shakespeare was not cremated but buried. Reference was given to the Rise of Phoenix who obtains a new life from ashes.
The Indianised Shakespeare mascot with a green painted face and a red ṭika on the forehead at various entrances was animating, this is how we all have adapted and adopted our own desi versions of Shakespeare worldwide.
The detailed program list consisted of seminars in form of reading out of presentation, panel discussion, Q & A with the audience. Session 1 had Seminars on,
Jesting with Death: Hamlet's Antic Disposition with Jennifer Monteiro as leader. It was a brilliant panel with excellent presentations. One of the speakers Swati Singh spoke on- Hamlet is dead, long live Hamlet, "The rest is silence". Seema Raizada too touched Hamlet similarly, The Stroke of Death: From Dread to Readiness. ShinJinI Mukhopadhyay dwelt about The critical Audience in Hamlet. Jennifer Monteiro' s address on Rethinking Masculinity in Hamlet made one gentleman from the audience ask as to why there is no male representation in the panel. Professor Anamika Saxena's poetic treatment to Hamlet as Hamlet's Soliloquies: Reading Billious Humour through Bhratrihari and Lacan was marvellous. She liberally quoted Kabir and other poets which was a delight.
जो हद बेहद दोनों तजे सो महासाध
जाको कछू ना चाहिए सो शहंशाह।
The much awaited lunch over the greens of Char Bagh was refreshing and saw writers, professors, theatre personalities in candid conversations.
Session 2 had a seminar on Stardust and Ashes: Shakespeare and the Present. The choice of papers was interesting. Lakshmi drew an analogy between Shakesperian tragedies and Rohit Vermulla's suicide letter. Leader Tapan Basu made reflection on inter caste marriages in India and the inter-racial marriages happening in Othello.
As the evening progressed, it saw an excellent Jugalbandi of ideas on Midsummer Night's Redreamed happening on stage between Sukanta Chaudhari and Jonathan Gill Harris. The Jugalbandi progressed effortlessly and unravelled many Indian adaptations of the play like Chetan Tendulkars Marathi play, Jungle mein Mangal, Habib Tanveer's play and also Sharat Katariya's directorial debut film 10M Love. It was a surprise to spot among the audience young writer Saikat Majumdar , author of the book Fire Birds, which was yet another adaptation of Midsummer Night's dream. The re-dreaming continued with another Jugalbandi between Shormishtha Ponja and Rani Drew on Shakespeare's adaptation. The highlight of the evening was Chahat ki Dastan, translation of Shakespeare's sonnets into various Indian languages.
Shakespeare is present so much in Indian theatre, Bollywood and its stories that we continue to dwell on them with much enthusiasm. Filmmaker Aparna Sen’s Arshinagar which is adapted from Romeo and Juliet was screened on day 2 followed by a talk.
It was a festival grown out of abiding love for the Shakespeare and strong relevance till date. Not to forget what Sukanta Chaudhari said,
The art of Shakespeare was impure and no pure form of art ever exists or existed.