Monthly Archives: April 2016

Venice’s Othello turns into Meerut’s Omkara

The English Language Centre in Kolkata held a blog contest on ‘The Shakespearean film/adaptation that has influenced me most and why’. Sanchari Saha was one of three winning entries. Read her blog below

Four hundred years later, we still appreciate the world’s favourite playwright, William Shakespeare. His legacy of written works ensures his relevance to society, past and present. His characters and stories reveal universal truths about the human condition in a way we can all relate to; whether it is the tragic outcome of unchecked greed and ambition, an unrelenting desire for revenge, or the pursuit of love. His representation of human nature is just as real and as relevant today, as it has been through the centuries. Even now directors and producers all over the world make films which are inspired by Shakespeare’s dramas.  One such movie is Omkara, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, an Indian director. The film is inspired by Shakespeare’s Othello. I have recently watched this movie and it kept me spellbound.

Vishal Bharadwaj had a vision to turn Venice’s Othello into Meerut’s Omkara and he made sure that vision turned into an epic reality. Omkara is a superlative and exhaustive work of passion and tribute, skill and style. What stands out the most is how most of the characters are dynamic and they teach us a lesson. There is a huge sense of catharsis at the end of the film which I liked the most. Characters like Indu and Omi grabbed my attention. The characters are very strong characters in a different way. Every actor does their part beautifully, but Saif Ali Khan is brilliant as Langda Tyagi. His dialogue delivery and authentic character lends Omkara strength.

To sum up, Omkara is about revenge, love for money and power, dark politics and jealousy. It is one of the rare movies where the antagonist receives more empathy than the protagonist. The movie is superb and is a must watch for cinephiles.

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Beatrice wins hearts with her wit

The English Language Centre in Kolkata held a blog contest on ‘The Shakespearean film/adaptation that has influenced me most and why’. Pranjal Mondal wrote one of three winning entries. Read his blog below:

“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore
To one thing constant never-“
-Much Ado About Nothing (Act II Scene III)

A noteworthy work as far as Shakespeare’s comedies are concerned, Much Ado About Nothing needs no introduction. The wit of the characters, the excellence of the plot and the occasional powerful humour makes the play an unforgettable experience. When such an immaculate plot is handled by a director as talented as Kenneth Branagh, it is bound to be a visual delight. Directed and produced by him, Much Ado About Nothing compels admirers of Shakespeare to appreciate ‘the loftiest hill’ even more. There have probably been far better Shakespearean adaptations in the history of cinema, but this work has influenced me the most.
Through the skills of Branagh, both as an actor and as the director, justice has been done to the work of Shakespeare. The gentleness of Hero, the wit of Beatrice, the credulity of Claudio, the wisdom of Friar Francis, the villainy of Don John and so on have been dealt with in the best possible way. Moreover, Emma Thompson as Beatrice and Kenneth Branagh as Benedick have not failed to captivate the audience with their expressions.
Although the play is a comedy, there are certain serious elements that enrich the plot. First, the way Benedick voluntarily parts from his dearest of kin to stand beside the lady he loves is unprecedented. Beatrice too plays the role of a woman of strength by not deserting her cousin even in the roughest of circumstances. Through the film, Branagh rightfully glorifies them.
On the other hand, the viewers are away from disappointment as he equally vilifies the diabolic nature of Don John and the changeable and credulous mind of Claudio. There are numerous aspects in the play which reflect what the qualities of a true human being should be. Apart from qualities like loyalty and chivalry, the playwright conveys the definition of a true man through Benedick. Thus the work has permanently occupied a little niche in my heart.
I must say that Beatrice is my favourite character. She is adept at winning hearts through her wit. You must be wondering what my favourite dialogue is. It is the one that defines Beatrice’s wit the best, the one she uses to accept Benedick’s proposal- “I would not deny you, but by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life for I was told you were in a consumption.”

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Pop culture adds the twist

The English Language Centre in Kolkata held a blog contest on ‘The Shakespearean film/adaptation that has influenced me most and why’. Senjutee Mazumder was one of three winning entries. Read her blog below:

Of all Shakespeare’s adaptations I have watched till date, the one that has impressed me the most is the 1996 American romantic drama “Romeo + Juliet” directed by Baz Luhrmann starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles.
While there are several reasons to love this movie, the main reason is that it has successfully reproduced the ambience of romance as was done by Shakespeare in his original play. Set in the late 20th century, it has slight alterations in settings, characterisation and description of plot while retaining the original dialogues of the play.
The context of the play is perfectly put up. The exchange of contemptuous dialogues between the Capulet and Montague boys and their fights reflect the terrifying spirit of violence whereas the development of love between the two lovers amidst the hostility is truly admirable.
The portrayal of the ball dance in the party scene is simply marvellous and the fanciful costumes and familiar music delights the audience. The scene of Romeo and Juliet’s first acquaintance is mesmerising. Their subsequent falling in love, giving way to a secret proposal and marriage, also adds a pleasing note to the plot.
The tragic ending of the film evokes immense pathos and thus makes the film sensational and heart-touching. The tear-jerking scene of the lovers’ death also leaves a deep impact on the viewer’s mind. The background music is skilfully matched with the settings. Numerous references to pop culture add a new glamour to the plot.
This film teaches its audience the basic moral precepts inherent in the story. Replete with terror, romance, humour, pathos and glory, the movie seems to be the most fascinating interpretation of the classic Shakespearean play.

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The gigantic world of Shakespeare

Young actor Riddhi Sen performs Shakespeare at the British Council in Kolkata

Young actor Riddhi Sen performs Shakespeare at the British Council in Kolkata

Actor Riddhi Sen, who was part of the Shakespeare Day celebrations at the British Council in Kolkata on 23 April 2016, writes on how it’s essential to keep performing and reinterpreting Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare wrote plays on kings, soldiers and empires but even now his work perfectly fits our surroundings. Surprising, but if we really look around it makes perfect sense.
As a citizen of West Bengal it’s really wonderful to see how Shakespeare has been adapted on screen and stage repeatedly in recent times. There seems to be an urgency to adapt Shakespeare. What’s more interesting is that his plays don’t require interpretation. They fit smoothly into any situation.
The great Utpal Dutt staged Macbeth in the time of Emergency. In recent times we’ve seen a lot of Shakespeare in Bengali film and theatre. I have been really privileged to be a part of the play Macbeth, directed by my father Koushik Sen. The play gained a lot of accolades, including a review by Andrew Dickson in the Guardian. What amazed me was how Macbeth defined the exact socio-political situation of 2012 Bengal. It’s really inspiring to see how Julius Caesar becomes the story of Kolkata’s underworld in Srijit Mukherji’s Zulfiqar.
This gives me confidence as an artist to find out how Shakespeare’s plays live and breathe in my surroundings. It creates an insatiable desire in me to be a part of this gigantic yet human world of Shakespeare. It creates a sense of urgency in me to work with his plays. Maybe I’m not mature enough but instinctively it forces me to deal with all his characters and bring them under one roof in the form of a play or film.
I was amazed and inspired when I saw Kashmir become the setting of ‘to be or not to be’ in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider. It’s really important for our generation to realise that it’s just not important to interpret Shakespeare but it’s a bigger responsibility to make the plays more approachable for the masses. It’s more important to uproot the notion that in order to understand Shakespeare it requires a great deal of knowledge and maturity.

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A Cultural Shift: Dan Daw of Candoco Dance Company on disability in dance

Dance artist, Dan Daw, recently spent 10 days touring India with Candoco Dance Company, performing Studies for C supported by the British Council. In this blog, he captures his thoughts, feelings and observations of his first trip to India

Studies For C performers, Dan Daw and Mirjam Gurtner in Chennai

Studies For C performers, Dan Daw and Mirjam Gurtner in Chennai

Incredible India. Before experiencing India for myself, I’d look at that slogan plastered to the entire surface of a London black cab with a cynicism asking, “How can an entire country be described as just ‘incredible’?” It is a slogan our taxi driver in Delhi would exclaim proudly as we’d stop, patiently waiting while a holy bull sauntered nonchalantly across a road in rush hour, or as we’d swerve out of the way of vehicles coming toward us in strategic attempts to expedite their journey.

Having been, I can now answer my own question of doubt and unknowing by saying, “Because that’s exactly what it is. In every sense of the word, India is incredible.”

It is indeed a difficulty to pinpoint the very thing that makes India so incredible, but if held to task, it would absolutely be the people. This would be confirmed as I departed Chennai, departed Kolkata and departed Delhi on our 10-day tour, finding myself thinking back to moments shared with new-found friends.

Connected to each performance of Studies for C by Javier de Frutos, a work we have been touring with on and off for almost four years, was a post-show discussion, which revealed just how sincere and genuinely interested in Candoco Dance Company’s work, approach and legacy the people in each of the three cities actually were.

Artiste Dan Daw (middle) in a post-show discussion with Dr Ambika Kameshwar (second from left) in Chennai

Artiste Dan Daw (middle) in a post-show discussion with Dr Ambika Kameshwar (second from left) in Chennai

Although clear that dance therapy was the broader understanding of inclusive dance practice, there was a sense of wanting to move beyond the notion that dance for disabled people was simply to ‘fix’ them.

How did our audiences respond? Our performance sparked debate and raised some interesting and key questions from within the Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi audiences and arts communities about how a cultural shift might be able to occur to allow perceptions to expand. As an artist and producer, I am interested in the traces my practice leaves behind; the ripples that remain long after the pool closes.

Studies For C in Delhi

Studies For C in Delhi

It is my hope, rather than expectation, that these traces provoke a shift in artistic and social consciousness.

How do we, as foreign artists, facilitate this shift in artistic and social consciousness?

In 10 days it is impossible to know what this shift is, let alone how to facilitate it, but with the foundation a series of performances, post-show discussions, press engagements and community workshops provides, a structure can now be built and I suspect construction will begin soon.

 

About Dan Daw:

Dan Daw

Dan Daw

Dan danced with Candoco for four years from 2010 until 2014 and worked as Assistant Creative Producer in 2013. He still performs with the company in Studies for C and Imperfect Storm.

He completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts at the Flinders University Drama Centre in 2004. And joined Restless Dance Company in 2002, performing in works by Ingrid Voorendt, Kat Worth, Daisy Brown, Michael Whaites, Garry Stewart, and Billie Cook.

In early 2006, Dan danced with UK company FRONTLINE dance in their 5th Anniversary Tour and in 2007 he performed with Scottish Dance Theatre as Guest Dancer in Adam Benjamin’s Angels of Incidence for their Spring Tour. In 2007/2008, Dan worked with Kate Champion’s Force Majeure performing in The Age I’m In for the 2008 Sydney and Adelaide Festivals.

READ: For more information on the Studies For C India tour, click here: 

 

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