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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

To be or not to be a die-hard fan of a particular literary figure is perhaps decided by our Guardian Angels. Mines have been benevolent and ensured that I suffer from acute Wodehousitis.

But when it comes to William Shakespeare, much revered by all and sundry, my GAs have ensured that I never qualify to be even a mild case of Shakespearitis. One of the several challenges I have faced in my life is that of understanding the literary fare dished out by William Shakespeare. Given the high level of what Bertie Wooster might label as my Pumpkin Quotient, repeated attempts on my part to comprehend the ingenious outpourings of The Bard have failed miserably.

But an absence of Shakespearitis does not necessarily guarantee peace of mind. On the contrary, it makes life even more of a challenge. The brow is invariably furrowed. The heart is leaden with woe. This is so because he is to be found everywhere and apt to spring surprises at all times, not a very pleasing prospect for a faint-hearted person like me. Such are the perils of not suffering from Shakespearitis.

The omnipresent Bard

The simple irony is that my GAs have always managed to make The Bard keep popping up through all stages of my life. His persistence to engage me over the past few decades deserves to be commended. His near-omnipresence in my life merely testifies to his feeble hope that one day he may be able to assist me in improving my intellect in some way, much like the aspirations of Florence Craye with respect to Bertie Wooster (as in ‘Joy in the Morning’). I suspect I might have left him severely disappointed, disgruntled, dismayed, disheartened and dispirited. I offer my sincere regrets for the same.

The taming of a student

His omnipresent nature can be readily appreciated. His works were there at school, shoring up the proverbial Tyrannical Quotient of the Classroom. Besides, many of his works kept finding their way to my bookshelves whenever I excelled at a pursuit of some kind, whether academic or otherwise.

His plays were often staged at the University I went to. With renewed enthusiasm which is so very typical of Homo sapiens at a tender age, I attempted to burrow deep in his works. The intention was merely to impress some of the delicately nurtured around. But the language was beyond the capacity of my limited grey cells. The best I could achieve at one of the performances was the unique distinction of drawing the curtains in and out for a stretch of two and a half hours, merely to make a young lass in the troupe happy.

Much ado about nothing

Then came the whirlwind phase of my life in the corporate sector. At times, there were bosses whose state of indecision would remind me of Macbeth, the one alluded to by Bertie Wooster as ‘the cat chap’. In smaller businesses, there were owners who could have mentored even someone of the deviousness of Shylock. Often, I had morose colleagues who might have inspired Shakespeare to fashion Hamlet. And yes, there were indeed subordinates who could have been scoundrels, perhaps described by the poet as being ‘arrant, rascally, beggarly and lousy knave.’

When the entrepreneurial bug caught up with me, there was never a dearth of ‘enterprises of great pith and moment’ to be undertaken.

In the realm of entertainment, I kept running into movies which were either based on, or inspired by, one of his works. Even when trying to relax and enjoy a vacation, The Bard has been apt to pop up without fail and throw a spanner in the works.

The Merchants of Venice

While visiting Venice recently, I ran into a branded showroom where the manager took no pains to hide his Shylockian leanings. The stone-paved streets were not without their normal quota of small shops peddling their inane stuff at prices which might make even Hollywood celebrities cringe. Even those selling seeds to be fed to a swathe of pigeons at the Piazza San Marco were extorting prices which would have cheered up any farmer in the hinterland and pulled him out from his current state of depression.

The famed couple of Verona

When the family decided to visit the house of Juliet in Verona, all we were hoping for was to spend a few moments of togetherness, something we miss these days owing to the temptations offered by the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves.

Alas, that was not to be. The courtyard outside her house was swarming with those eager to claim their fifteen seconds of fame when their photo grabbing a part of the anatomy of the famed heroine got uploaded without any delay, courtesy the smart phone carried by a friend/relative. There was a long queue of wide-eyed tourists wanting to clamour up to the famous balcony where the two lovers are supposed to have had their midnight rendezvous.

Immediately upon entering the hallowed premises, we encountered a shapely statue of Juliet. Right opposite was the bust of The Bard, appraising her comely profile with a stiff upper lip and a steely eye. Romeo, had he been around, might not have been amused by the poet’s presence in quarters where he would have appreciated privacy more than any kind of literary upliftment.

As you do not like it

This uncanny habit of The Bard to keep popping up at regular intervals in my life has left me all of a twitter. Several times have I mustered up enough courage to pick up any work from the Shakespeare canon. With renewed enthusiasm and gusto have I tried to wade through a work of his. But the experience has repeatedly left me with a highly enfeebled state of nerves.

My worst nightmares have been those wherein I have been conferred a literary honour of some sort, only to be gifted with a big parcel containing some tomes of his. The mind boggles. The chin goes down. The jaw slackens. The shoulders droop down further.

The English Proficiency Pyramid

Pray do not get me wrong. I have nothing against Shakespeare. Given his everlasting popularity, there is no doubt that he must have captured all facets of human emotions in an impeccable manner. His usage of quite a few phrases appears to have spawned a veritable stream of English literature, and continues to do so today.

He must have also set high standards for Queen’s English. He must have enriched the language in a manner which might be more vast and deep than those who have either preceded or succeeded him. This surely warms the hearts of our linguistic purists. But lesser mortals like me, surely at the bottom of the English Proficiency Pyramid, are apt to feel very dense.

A tide in the affairs of languages

Modern day communication thrives on simplicity. Complex ideas which get conveyed in a language which the masses understand. It appears that most of our great poets and literary figures perfected the art which is just opposite. Simple ideas couched in high-profile and complex language, which only those at the top of the Language Proficiency Pyramid might fathom.

When it comes to this particular trait, Shakspeare has good company. In Urdu poetry, Mirza Ghalib is not always easy to understand. In Hindi, the poetry of Jai Shankar Prasad comes to my mind. In Sanskrit, Kalidasa often keeps a lay reader guessing.

The cause of sustained Shakespearitis is possibly purely literary. Perhaps there is a commercial logic to this web of poetic complexity. Publishers of his works might still be laughing all the way to their respective banks. Besides, those publishing dictionaries would also not be found complaining.

Presenting soon: A Plummy Shakespeare

Somehow, the bulldog spirit in me refuses to give up.

In order to soothen the frayed nerves, I plan to present to you a Plummy Shakespeare very soon. Since the Wodehouse canon is littered with quotes and references to The Bard, I shall soon take the liberty to sharing with you some references in the weeks to follow. This might help many others like me, already suffering from acute Wodehousitis, to also have a brush with yet another dreaded affliction – Shakespearitis.

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PGWodehouseWodehouse keeps touching the lives of residents of Plumsville in more ways than one. In success, as well as in failure. In pleasure, as also in pain. In joy, as also in remorse.

Here is a blog post from Plumtopia which is a sterling example of the manner in which Plum helps us to face harsh slings and arrows of Fate.

Plumtopia

Bertie Wooster once said:

I’m not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare who says that it’s always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping.

Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest

So it was in February; I was sitting happily at my keyboard, brow furrowed with concentration as I worked on a delightful series of blog pieces on the theme of Wodehouse and love, in anticipation of Valentine’s day – the anniversary of Wodehouse’s death. The first three chapters of my first novel had received a nod of approval from a well-established author, and Winter was drawing to a close. Life was filled with the promise of Spring larks and snails; God was in His heaven and all was right in the world of Honoria Plum. But, as Wodehouse so…

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One of the reasons for the persistent allure of Shakespeare’s works is obviously the depth as well as the range of human behaviour these capture. One can easily relate to such elements as greed, power, jealousy, suspicion, love and lust which form the undercurrent of all his characters.

These are precisely the ingredients which producers, directors and script writers in Bollywood bank upon to whip up larger than life narratives, keeping the viewers enamoured and enthralled.

If a movie is said to be either ‘inspired by’ or ‘adopted from’ a literary classic, the intellectual coves are left more than satisfied. The critics could anyway pan the movie for its digressions from the original, but the common man is quite happy to have connected with a classic which he might otherwise never have the time, inclination or capacity of devouring in his saner moments.

A dash of spicy item numbers further adds to the mass appeal of such a movie. The ‘Masala Quotient’ for the front benchers also improves drastically.

It comes therefore as no surprise that Bollywood can boast of a number of screen adaptations of the Bard’s works. Here are a few which readily spring to one’s mind.

The Comedy of Errors

The tale of two sets of twins has invariably left the audience in splits.

If ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ had the Kishore Kumar-Asit Sen duo, ‘Angoor’ had Sanjeev Kumar- Deven Verma, ably assisted by Moushumi Chatterjee, Deepti Naval and Aruna Irani. Both are ageless comedies. shakespeare do dooni chaar  (A still from the movie ‘Do Dooni Chaar, Year: 1968, Director: Debu Sen)

Shakespeare Angoor

(1982, Gulzar)

Othello

When the cancer of distrust and suspicion spreads, disaster looms ahead.

If ‘Hamraaz’ had a stage performance based on the travails of Othello, ‘Omkara’ brought home the anguish of the hero in a poignant manner.

Shakespeare Humraz

(1967, B R Chopra)

Shakespeare Omkara

(2006, Vishal Bhardwaj)

Romeo and Juliet

The tale of star-crossed lovers has been used by Bollywood in a number of its offerings. ‘Do Badan’, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’, ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’, ‘Goliyon Ki Leela – Raas Leela’ and ‘Ishaqzaade’ can be said to be based on the Bard’s eternal love classic.Shakespeare Do badan

(1966, Raj Khosla)

Shakespeare Qayamat_Se_Qayamat_Tak

(1988, Mansoor Khan)

Shakespeare Ek_Duuje_ke_liye

(1981, K Balachander)

Shakespeare Ishaqzaade

(2012, Habib Faisal)

Shakespeare Ramleela

(2013, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)

In tune with the changing times, the last two were rather graphic in their depiction of the heat of desire, an aberration which only made them stray even farther from the original theme.

Macbeth

Maqbool’ had finely etched performances by the likes of Tabu, Pankaj Kapur and Irrfan Khan. A dark offering against the backdrop of a Mafia gang, it left the viewer struck with its audacity and the departures from the original work.

Shakespeare Maqbool

(2003, Vishal Bhardwaj)

Hamlet

Haider’ had all the elements of the original – intrigue, ambition, retribution and an amorous love affair to boot.

Shakespeare Haider

(2014, Vishal Bhardwaj)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

’10 ml Love’ came enchantingly close to the original, but did not have the depth of the original.

shakespeare 10 ml love

(2010, Sharat Katariya)

Most of these movies had the necessary ingredients for commercial success – exotic locales, lavish sets and costumes, outlandish exaggeration and intense passion. Opposites co-existed in many of these movies. Comedy often walked hand in hand with tragedy, poetic language got intermeshed with coarse slang, and middle class morality and values were juxtaposed with unabashed display of physical desire.

A timeless appeal

It would be too simplistic to say that the poet is merely a vestige of India’s colonial past. Much like Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, P G Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and many others, the multi-layered characters etched out by him touch a chord somewhere deep within the psyche of Indian movie buffs of all hues, sizes and shapes.

It is this mass appeal which makes the Bard a source of inspiration for many a scriptwriter in Bollywood. His works depict the essential traits of human beings and shall forever continue to regale movie goers all over the world.

(If you liked this post, there is a chance you may like these as well:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/some-bollywood-movies-with-a-dash-of-wodehousian-humour

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/30/fifty-years-and-three-classics)

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