If you ask my dad about Shakespeare, he will quote you a soliloquy from
Macbeth. If you ask my dad about Kathakali, he will instantly quote you a poetic epic
from the Mahabharata. If you ask my dad about how Shakespeare and Kathakali fit
together, in truth, he is not quite sure. I was not sure of the reasons myself, when I first
started thinking about what Shakespeare in my Canada meant to me, why I immediately
thought of Kathakali. Kathakali is an indigenous art form of Kerala, the southernmost
state of India, and my father's home. It is an extremely expressive form of dance-drama,
originally performed to tell the stories of the major Indian epics, the Mahabharata and
the Ramayana. In recent years, there have been attempts in both India and Canada to
adapt Shakespearean works to the Kathakali form, with varying degrees of success.
Through exploration of two such attempts, as well as brief examination of critical
responses to them, I would argue that Kathakali is in fact a viable form through which
Shakespearean works can be adapted in a Canadian and/or post-colonial context.
As we all know, Shakespeare himself based many of his plays on already existing
plays and stories. It is fitting then that "Shakespeare's works have, from their inception,
been both the product and the source of an ongoing explosion of re-creation" (Fischlin,
1). As a country once colonized by the British, Canada is especially familiar with
Shakespeare's near-universal power to lend a sense of cultural authenticity to any setting,
be it school-house stage, or tavern theatre. Today, despite being more than a century past
its colonial days, Canada is still struggling to define itself as a nation. Although we ma...
... middle of paper ...
with great potential to open new artistic doors in both Canada and India in the future.
Fischlin, Daniel and Mark Fortier. "General Introduction." Adaptations of Shakespeare.
Eds. Daniel Fischlin and Mark Fortier. London: Routledge, 2000.
Khandwani, Sudha. "A Century of Indian Dance." Kala Nidhi Fine Arts of Canada.
Raina, Arjun. Arjun Raina. Available:
Annette Leday performing "Stuff of Dreams" at Kala Nidhi
Arjun Raina performing his KhelKali adaptation of Othello at Leela a Elahi
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