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As you like it: Rangoli, bhangra for Shakespeare’s South Asia event

The Shakespeare in South Asia exhibition, which will be on till September 8, has been organised “in celebration of the UK-India Year of Culture”, but includes elements from South Asia.

world Updated: May 26, 2017 19:44 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
William Shakespeare’s birthplace at Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, where it is believed the bard was born.
William Shakespeare’s birthplace at Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, where it is believed the bard was born.(via The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)

William Shakespeare may be most known in India through Vishal Bhardwaj’s trilogy – Omkara, Haider and Maqbool – but a new event at his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, starting Friday, celebrates his resonance across south Asia, including in Bhutan and Nepal.

The Shakespeare in South Asia exhibition, which will be on till September 8, has been organised “in celebration of the UK-India Year of Culture”, but includes elements influenced by the bard of Avon in all eight South Asian countries.

It features two versions of Hamlet in Nepal, whether Shakespeare should or should not be on the curriculum in Bhutan, and a young woman who was inspired to become a cardiologist after playing Rosalind, the protagonist in As You Like It.

A Sufi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, titled Rahm, explores the story of justice, tolerance and forgiveness crossing national and cultural boundaries, while students from the BD Somani International School in Mumbai will present traditional Indian dance.

In July, a Bhangra workshop will introduce the folk dance of Punjab, while visitors will be able to create South Asia-inspired performance space based on The Tempest in the gardens of Shakespeare’s birthplace, using rangoli.

Elizabeth Dollimore of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said: “Shakespeare’s works have a long and complex relationship with South Asia, a relationship which has sometimes been tested by the colonial context but which has been the root of extraordinary artistic and intellectual energy.”

Islam Issa, a Birmingham City University academic and advisor to the trust, added: “The exhibition doesn’t just showcase Shakespeare’s reach, but also tells us that different cultures around the world can interpret and use Shakespeare in ways we might not expect.

“Given the overarching contexts of British colonialism and influence in the region, it has been interesting to see the different ways in which performances in South Asia serve different purposes — from cultural to social to political”.