How to make a comedy written in 1590, come alive in 2015? Actually that is not even the full challenge tackled in this production by Manish Sabu and Juhi Mohan. The main challenge here is how to adapt a Shakespearean comedy to a community at the other end of the world and still retain its beauty, its sharp wit, and colorful dialogs.
Bay area’s NAATAK company rose to the challenge and exceeded all expectations in its theatrical production of “Taming of the Shrew”! There are absolutely no other words to describe but to say KUDOS for such a fabulous adaptation of Shakespearean comedy to Bundelkhandi, set in India. Don’t balk if you did not even know such a language existed in India. The language is a close cousin of Hindi and appropriately coordinated translation in English appears on two close circuit monitors on both sides of the stage. I can guarantee that the audience could not have enjoyed as fully this production in Hindi, as they can enjoy it in Bhundelkhandi. It is the difference in watching Shakespeare’s play in regular English versus watching it in Shakespearean English. Somehow this play in Bundelkhandi feels like it was originally written in Bundelkhandi. Yes, it feels that natural!! The production in fact begins with couple of little challenges thrown at the audience, to get them thinking in Bundelkhandi – which is also awesome!
Bundelkhandi dialect is earthy, rich, and beautiful.
Consider how rich this dialog feels in Shakespeare’s English. Gremio is questioning Baptista about his quieting his good and patient daughter Bianca and making her bear the penance of his “fiend” of a daughter Kathrina.
Why will you mew her up,
Signior Baptista, for this fiend of hell,
And make her bear the penance of her tongue?
In Bundelkhandi, Kathrina, the shrew, fiendish, evil, wicked one is referred to as “karkasa”.
Petruchio marries Kathrina and then insists they leave, without partaking in the feast. Kathrina resists and seeks help from others and Petruchio says
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing;
And here she stands,
Kathrina is now Petruchio’s “amanat”.
Petruchio then lovingly manipulates Kathrina, and masterfully takes on the nearly impossible task of taming his new bride, as Tranio explains to Bianca
Petruchio is the master;
That teacheth tricks eleven and twenty long,
To tame a shrew and charm her chattering tongue.
and Petruchio himself boasts
hum jo padhat hai, vo hi hum sikhaut hai, pirem ki kala
Finally, Petruchio succeeds in taming his shrew, and Kate learns not to argue with him, and she says,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
In Bundelkhandi, Kathrina says,
Chahe to suraj he, chahe chandrama, aur tum kaho to mombatti.
Some Shakespeare’s plays depart moral messages, whereas some are just humorous ones to be enjoyed for the sharp wit. Obviously, there is not moral message that would be applicable in this century, in Taming of the Shrew. But in regular English or in Hindi, it would seem preachy. Whereas in Bundelkhandi, this is a beautiful production, with marvelously talented cast, and perfectly suited staging. This play is full of sharp wit, performed in an Indian language that is ancient and earthy, yet easily accessible and enjoyed by all.
Every theater season, I share for my readers, not-to-miss-play of the season in South Bay area. For my Hindi speaking readers, without hesitation, I choose this NAATAK production as not-to-miss-play in this theater season. Please get your tickets before it is too late at www.naatak.org .