Shakespeare- the common man’s hero

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The persona of the man we know as William Shakespeare is tough to comprehend. The figure that is Shakespeare is tainted by history, fiction, fame, and politics. Some consider him the father of English literature, some the world’s foremost playwright. But whichever may be an individual’s pick, it is very difficult to understand William, the man.

The film ‘Shakespeare in love’ has attempted to step off a literary pedestal and look at him as a common man- one who had a wife he did not love; one who had to produce lines for a living; one that desired the female company to the extent that he had to visit local brothels; one that drowned his sorrows under the influence of ale; and one who was jealous of his contemporary.

The film traces the creation of Romeo and Juliet and the rise of Shakespeare into the limelight. As is common knowledge, Elizabethan England frowned upon plays. The clergy endorsed only morality plays, performed in the church yards and disregarded any theatre company as the playground of the devil.

Furthermore England had just been hit by another wave of the plague owing to which theatres like the Rose were ordered to shut down. In such a sticky situation, if a young playwright had to leave his mark on society, he had to achieve something extraordinary.

The young Will, not only struggled with writer’s block (which he went to a therapist to resolve), he had to face daily threats of being fired from the owner of the theatre. This man starts out as a village boy trying to make it big in the filth and glamour of London. He fears that he will have to get back to the country to his unloving wife, the marriage to whom was a mere financial contract.

This is a man who is bursting passion. He has a sonnet on his lips for beautiful women and is in search of his muse. The renaissance symbolized rebirth; rebirth of ideas and forming new opinions. It was a world away from the conservative society of the past.

England had a female ruler who drove the country to greatness. She had just won a religious battle against the Vatican and had managed to keep peace between the Catholics and the Protestants in the nation. Furthermore, the common man could finally find means of expression.

Books were being published in the common tongue. Primary education was on the rise. For instance Shakespeare’s generation was perhaps the most literate population England had ever seen.

The classics, that were previously only accessible to the Latin speaking elite, were now available to the masses in English. Theatre was endorsed by the queen herself which is why theatre houses like Rose had survived and people like Shakespeare were employed.

Not only does Shakespeare do things differently in his plays, his complete disregard for the classical rules of drama (like Aristotelian Unity) showed that he was open to experimentation. Due to the lack of props, he had to make do with words and that he did well. Shakespeare was a master of his words. Every sentence he produced did something to the audience.

It was popular belief that all the audience wanted was some comedy (often slapstick), and some fighting as their theatre diet. William changed it. He gave the world a romantic tragedy. He gave the world- Romeo and Juliet.

The story is not just about the relationship between a man and a woman, it is a struggle to find a safe spot in the new world. Although the new thoughts had entered England, the old traditions and believes still existed. Both Romeo and Juliet, face a political divide and yet struggle to find love and hold on to that love despite the protests of their respective families. They end up dying. But the beauty of the story lies in the fact that at the end, they made their own decisions and that Juliet, a woman, had the courage to face the society.

Viola, who was the inspiration for Juliet and also William’s lover, was a very different kind of muse. Unlike previous muses who were overshadowed by the artists, Viola held her own. She, a lady who came from wealth, had the courage to dress like a boy and follow her dreams. She lead a duel life- in one she was Lady Viola full of poise and grace ready to do her father’s bidding, and in the other, she dressed like a boy and played Romeo in front of the audience.

It is the courage and determination of Viola that epitomizes the renaissance. Romeo and Juliet made the audience weep. The queen herself applauded the performance as the first work that got the concept of love right.

Shakespeare’s story is an everyman’s story. It is the attempt to break out of the situation one is born into and make something out of one’s life. Rajnikanth reminds me of William Shakespeare. If the former’s popularity is viewed in context of his background, it is plausible to come to the conclusion that the phenomenon mirrors that of the latter’s.

Shakespeare’s was an all too familiar struggle of the rural against the urban, of the common man against the lords and the mob’s against the regimes. His story resonates with the common man’s and he will always remain their hero.

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Bangalore or Bengaluru?

Bangalore Days was a wonderful movie. Especially so because just like the protagonists, I was also very excited with the prospect of moving to the city. As a starry eyed teenager, whenever I was told that there exists a city in the South which is bigger that Delhi, more cosmopolitan than Hyderabad and cleaner than Kolkata, I wanted to become a part of the hustle and bustle of this city.

Was Bangalore a revelation when I finally got here a few years later? In some ways yes. The cosmopolitan aspect of it was true. You could find both Punjabi uncles as well as loud Bengali aunties in the midst of Malayalis and Telegites. The Kannadigas were difficult to find though.

For a first timer, it comes across as too huge a city to fathom in a day or more. It’s too vast and too impersonal at some level. In the film Divya remarks that there is no one and nothing in the city that she can call her own.

That sentiment of alienation among the crowd of Majestic and Shivajinagar is very familiar to me. Everyone is too caught up in their own worlds to notice the other. However, after a series of dramatic events, DIvya, Kuttan and Arjun come to terms with the ways of the metropolitan.

For a conservative good boy like Kuttan it means being comfortable with walking on the side of road where a couple is kissing. For Arjun, that means learning the importance of a career and establishing one self.

The wanderer becomes the settler and the conservative becomes a liberal. It is a city where dreams come true. A place not restricted by traditions and customs as much as the rest of the country; yet a place which smells of culture.

Bengaluru is Bengaluru for some and Bangalore for others. It is the go between for some who are seeking a transformation from traditional living to modern living and vice versa.

The American girl that Kuttan ends up marrying is the example of how people come here seeking culture. That aspect of the film rings a bell.

But what the filmmaker missed was the traffic, the over-crowded BMTC buses that Arjun travelled on, the eve teasing that Divya could have faced when she came back home alone post classes and the judgmental glances of the neighbours when Kuttan stayed back at his girlfriend’s house.

However, it is imperative that one gives artistic freedom to the filmmaker.  Hence, keeping his perspective in mind, the film definitely did a good job in portraying the spirit of this vast, multifaceted city.

What Pink did to me and what it didn’t!

I was reluctant to watch the movie- Pink since the very first moment. The reason was simple- whenever I watch films discussing gender issues and women’s issues in particular, my blood races and my heartbeat quickens. It makes me think and that is the worst thing I can do to myself because I over analyze to such an extent that I lose my night’s sleep.
 
Pink made me cry. Not because it had powerful actors (which it had) and a predictable plot (frankly a daily affair for those of us who get a chance to glance at the newspaper every other day), but because it showed Delhi for what it was.
 
I could recall the whistles and the whisperings behind my back about my cup size while I walked down the streets of Karol Bagh as I saw Minal being molested in the car by 4 boys. I could visualize how it must have felt as Falak was asked to leave her job. I could feel the gaze of the colony-walas on the girls as they got home late at night and their judgmental look was all too familiar to me.
 
As a girl who has lived alone in an apartment, had more male friends than women ones and as one who loves to party and drink, I felt the pain of Falak, Minal and Andrea. After all, which lady in 2016 would not?
 
I cried internally and then after a few drops of salt water down my eyes, the grand Amitabh Bachchan came to the rescue. The father figure, the best brand ambassador patriarchy can ever have (pun intended), was speaking for women’s rights. NO means No was hammered into the viewer’s head.
 
But I had a problem. I asked myself, “all of that is fine…justice prevailed at last, but why was it the same old narrative?” Why was a man defending a woman- the ‘pitas’ and the ‘bhais’ we tie our rakhis to?
 
Then I asked myself- how would it be if a woman had played Amitabh’s role. Instead of the father figure, if a mother figure had defended the girls or the girls had defended themselves, how would the movie have panned out?
 
After all Akshay Kumar could defend himself in Rustom. How about Minal doing the same in Pink? Then my twisted mind came to one conclusion- women, if not Kali when required (and a situation like this requires it), will become lazy if they rely on a man to solve their problems for them.
 
I don’t know about other women, but I do (unconsciously) turn to my father and boyfriend for protection when I am eve-teased or harassed. I never do what has to be done myself.
 
So today, after a day on intense debate and watching a film that made me cry, I take home one lesson only- never again will I turn to anyone else but myself for defending me. If that means fighting till the end and losing the fight, I will do so unashamedly.
 
I will lose my sleep tonight just thinking about what my world would be like- where a lady defends her own like Kali did. Call me a dreamer, but I do hope to God that I am not the only one!

The Age of Adaline: a movie review

In a world that is trying to achieve immortality for its inhabitants, Leo Toland’s ‘The Age of Adaline’ is a well-placed movie. Belonging to the genres of science fiction and romance, one which I tend to stay away from most times, it is not as soppy and cheesy as I had predicted.

My decision to go watch the movie came out of acute boredom on my part and very cheap tickets- just Rs.70 which is peanuts for Bangalore—on providence’s part. I was mentally prepared to have fun watching the couples in the theatre cuddle up and profess their love to each other on the sight of the protagonist in the arms of some man reciting a cheesy dialogue. But I was in for a shock.

After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence for obvious reasons. She has to live with the curse of immortality and finds everyone dear to her either in their grave or with one foot in the grave. Hence, she never allows herself to get close to anyone who might tickle her heart strings. But, like in any romantic film, there has to be a knight in the shining armour whose kiss wakes up the sleeping beauty and converts her into the fawning and gooey-eyed female. Our hero is a handsome (obviously), highly accomplished and rich philanthropist named Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman). They meet on new years’ eve and he reignites her passion for life and romance. She resists him in the beginning but we all know what will happen in the end, don’t we? She takes the leap of faith and goes to his parent’s house for their anniversary. There she meets Ellis’s old man- Harrison Ford- who knows more about her than she would like. Will Adaline stop running and face her demons or will she run to protect herself?

The whole idea of freezing at a certain age is not a new concept. We have seen plenty of it in ‘Dracula’ and ‘Lord of the Rings.’ But the way it is portrayed in this movie, in the context of love, is interesting. When her daughter asks her, “don’t you miss having someone to love,” Adaline replies, “it’s not the same when there is no growing old together. Without that love is just heartbreak.” This dialogue pretty much sums up the story. Immortality is not a boon. It is a curse and the charm in loving someone is seeing the love through to the very end.

Is it a realistic movie? Not at all. Adaline stop aging the day she has an accident. Her car falls into a pool of cold water and lightning strikes that very moment causing her DNA to alter and stop aging. Well it is science fiction, so you might as well ignore the vagueness of the explanation.

The movie is Shakespearean in nature. It deals with love in a supernatural context and only the outcome of love matters to us, not just the whole process of falling in love. Being a feminist, I do like the fact that Miss Bowman has survived all these years without any support from anybody. She is the femme fatale who is complete in herself and doesn’t let any weakness prevail in her.

A ten on ten on acting for all the characters. Harrison Ford takes the award for the best actor in the movie. Seeing him in quite an unusual role, very unlike his action-star tough guy image, his acting touches the heart and is subtle. His eyes speak louder than his words. His wife, Ellen Burstyn, is a huge support to his character. She steals every scene she is in and again there is something about her eyes that endears her to the audience.

While watching the film, I could hear people choke and some sobbed too. What I predicted came true. The couples, quite a few of them, cuddled closer to each other and the guys sitting behind me said to each other, “I would want to grow old with you and see the last of the greys you will ever have.” That was kind of cute. The movie did something to the audience. It created a somber atmosphere and left people pondering over—is love really a heartbreak if there is no growing old together?

It sure made me think.