He was not of an age, but for all time,” said the English playwright and the literary critic Ben Johnson about William Shakespeare. As we commemorate the 400th death anniversary of the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, theatre practitioners from the city and outside are paying a tribute to him in the form of plays. V. Balakrishnan, director of Theatre Nisha, is all set for a drama marathon. “We wanted to commemorate his death anniversary and will be staging four plays today and tomorrow at Spaces in Besant Nagar. The plays aren’t connected to the Bard’s plays,” he says.
When asked him about the relevance of the master writer in the modern age, Balakrishnan says, “Shakespeare’s relevance is not limited to any particular period. He was ahead of his time and he still is. More than his writings, his plots are still relevant and our Indian filmmakers are very fond of them. Director Vishal Bhardwaj’s love for Shakespeare’s classics is evident from his movies Maqbool and Haider.” He adds that the Bard contributed over 5,000 words to the English language, and his influence on modern literature is amazing.
Theatre director Atul Kumar is in the city with Piya Behrupiya — a desi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The play will be staged on Sunday at Phoenix MarketCity. “The two-hour act, which will be in Hindi, is a completely funny affair with colourful character portrayals and Shakespearean enactments,” says Atul, who is also an actor.
He adds, “Shakespeare’s writings —whether sonnets or plays — are the true definition of ‘classics’. He has a wonderful human understanding that has crossed culture and time. The writer propagates finer philosophies through his literature and it has had a major influence on me. His writings are very much relevant to me.”
Aparna Bhattacharya, senior manager operations for the library at the British Council, says that they are organising a series of activities including workshops, film screening, contests and more. “An online quiz and drawing contest for children is ongoing. The quiz is mainly on Shakespeare’s plays and their Bollywood adaptations! The theme for the drawing contest is Shakespeare’s look in the 21st century,” she says, adding, “There will be a theatre workshop and a reading/discussion session on April 30.”
Aparna herself is a Shakespeare lover and loves to read his plays. “There is a lot of universality in his themes — the political situation is very much relevant. Also, the new adaptations of his plays look very colourful and attractive, and young children are keen to read them,” she concludes.