Far removed from the geographical boundaries of his characters, I still felt a part of whatever happened. Shakespeare’s women were way too interesting, a bit maniacal too (oh, that’s the reason, eh?); his men had streaks of sensitivity running through their compelling manhood; the comic made even plebeian farce seem touched with a wit beyond the mere ‘brevity’ requirement. In fact, they were extended portions that took humour to touch the fringes of sadness.
As in all great art, his world was divided into Tragedy, Comedy, History…but none was confined to the genre…there was romance and dramatic moments. I did not take up English Literature because I wanted to be a writer but because I wanted to be a better reader. In one class they were asking what made us like Shakespeare; I recall saying, “It has everything. You don’t need to learn history, you don’t need to know society, you don’t need psychology. It is all here.”
My friend whispered, “Just say you don’t want to attend all the other lectures!”
It truly was more than that. At an office where you were supposed to register your name (a place where they knew me), I would write 'Cleopatra'. A few years ago a bunch of kids had come running towards me at the promenade in Fort Cochin, "Watt iss yor naim?" they asked in their sing-song kiddie voices with a heavy Malayalam accent.
"Kaleeyo..." they stuttered..."Patra," I completed. They giggled and went away singing, "Kaleeyopaatera".
I used to say, "Out, damn spot!" with great dramatic flourish as I cleaned up the blood stains...does my obsession with blood start here? I wanted to kill Ophelia. Hamlet was made for me.
Vishal Bharadwaj has done a tremendous adaptation of Macbeth with Maqbool; I will need to watch Omkara again to truly appreciate his take on Othello – I felt the indigenisation was a bit too rough at the edges. Will he do a good Hamlet?
I am not too sure. Somehow the thought of Hamlet being transported to a different milieu does not appeal to me. Yes, if Guru Dutt were alive, he would be the one to do it. With him playing Hamlet and Nutan as Ophelia. She is the actress I identify with most and it has to be someone like her…I am that possessive.
And the ghost has to be the character that defines and refines Hamlet. Balraj Sahni.
I should have been born in a different era. That’s what my Prof said too. “You even look Victorian,” she stated. Never mind. It sounds better than Elizabethan.
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"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
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PS: William Shakespeare Bust, Bronze by Emile Guillemin