Shakespeare Centre for Advanced Research, Rabindra Bharati University

Shakespeare Centre for Advanced Research was established in April 2008 on the Gala occasion of the 444th Birthday Celebrations of Shakespeare organized on 29th and 30th April by Rabindra Bharati University in collaboration with the Shakespeare Society of Eastern India at the University’s Emerald Bower Campus. The Centre’s main focus is on Shakespeare-related activity beginning from Bengal, going on to India, to the sub-continent and ultimately in Asia. Shakespeare was first introduced into Bengal and India with the coming of the British Colonials. The Bard soon penetrated into every facet of our culture and civilization and together with Rabindranath Tagore became our two Viswakavis as well as our two National poets. The Centre’s work focuses on this relationship of the Bard with India through the archival research on Shakespeare translations, adaptations, transcreations and imitations in Bangla and other Indian Languages; research into the development and modes of Shakespeare performance in our country; the impact of Shakespeare on Bangla and Indian Literatures and the Bard’s intertexual relationship with Tagore, Premchand and other nineteenth and twentieth century Greats; Shakespeare in the English and regional Language media and allied areas. The centre will also begin short courses on Shakespeare and our performative folk traditions; Shakespeare and Music; Shakespeare and the nineteenth century Renaissance; Performing Shakespeare – Elizabethan, modern and Indian styles of staging etc. The centre regularly organizes workshops, conferences, lecture demonstrations on Shakespeare vis-à-vis our culture and uses Shakespeare through popular modes of entertainment (like debates, quizzes and performances, song and music) for social and educational reform and reconstruction programmes.

During 2008 among many activities two need to be highlighted. The first is the 444th Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations which began at the Emerald Bower Campus in a novel way. Rabindranath and Shakespeare (actually two students brilliantly made to look exactly like the two great poets) arrived together on the Campus to greet the Vice-Chancellor Prof. KarunaSindhu Das and lead a ceremonial procession through the university grounds of students, teachers, educational staff of the University with some of them colourfully costumed and made up as characters from the Bard’d plays. The celebration started at the drama workshop with two inaugural songs from the Shakespeare choir (Under the green wood tree in English from As You Like It and Tagore’s Mahabishey, Mahakashay in Bangla) This was followed by the Vice-Chancellor’s insightful lecture on the relevance of Shakespeare in today’s India and the World and the exchange of garlands between the two Viswakavi’s flanking the VC.

The next event was a Shakespeare translation workshop with three-member teams of translators made up of students, teachers and research scholars from participating institutions from all over West Bengal (South Point School, A.T.Shreerampur High School, Goria, Bijoygarh, Baruipur, Shree Shikshayatan, Shrerampur, Sabitri Girls, Bankim Sardar and Naihati Colleges, Sanmilony Mahavidyala, Sovarani Memorial, Universities of Jadavpur, Calcutta, Burdwan and Vidyasagar and of course teams from undergraduates, post graduates and distance courses of the Rabindra Bharati University). The texts set for translation into Bangla was the opening witches scenes from Macbeth (which Rabindranath himself translated in his youth) and Macbeth’s tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow soliloquy. The translations generated at the Workshop conducted by Prof Amitava Roy is set to appear soon as a Monograph from the Shakespeare Centre.

The second days programme (30th April) began with the Shakespeare Choir (Profs Shreela Roy, Debashis Chottopadhyay and Pradyut Ganguly) singing the Bard’s songs from his tragedies, comedies and the Tempest in excellent Bangla translation by Prof Dattatreyo Dutt to a full house audience at the Udaysankar hall. This was followed by the performance of the Witches scenes from Macbeth by 15 student-actors drawn from the English, Drama, Bengali and Sanskrit departments of RBU under the direction of Prof Amitava Roy. A whole forest of Witches was created (instead of only three in Shakespeare) by mingling the performative traditions of the experimental non-verbal theatre of Europe with the in-the-round-performance mode of our Jatra and third Theatre styles. This workshop production held the audience spellbound as the performers using the resources of their voice and bodies created a swaying forest of trees with a howling storm blowing through them and the forest transforming into malevolent witches tempting and leading Macbeth and Banquo to their tragic doom. The performance proved how outside the proscenium through this type of theatre-in-the-round presentation Shakespeare can have a Jatra-type life of his own and why Shakespeare is so close to our Folk Traditions.

This two day long celebrations ended with a highly entertaining and educative Shakespeare fun quiz. 13 teams from various schools colleges and universities fought it out among themselves to correctly answer the pointed and sometimes hilarious questions flung at them by the quiz master Sm Sudeshna Banerjee, the renowned cultural journalist from the Telegraph Newspaper.

The quiz questions included, to give two examples,

  1. Legend has it that Shakespeare was arrested while ‘poaching’ in a reserved forest.

What did he ‘poach’? choose from the following answers

  1. eggs, b) deer, c) little birds, d) his wife
  1. What did Shakespeare’s son-in-law do?

Answer from a) mugging, b) editing Shakespeare’s plays, c) Acting, d) practiced medicine.

The first three prizes were all won by Rabindra Bharati university Teams: M.Phil A came first, M.A. English 2nd years second, and M.A. English distance course wan the third prize.

Each participant received a certificate and book prizes donated by the Shakespeare Society. (Dr. S.C.Sengupta’s Shakespeare and Keats / R.Pramanik’s Shakespeare in Bengali Translation (1852-2007) / Shakespearer Sonnet Eds. Amitava Roy, Debashis Chottopadhyay etal.

5th World Shakespeare Conference at Kolkata

The 5th World Shakespeare Conference (13th -17th December 2008) was held at the 225 year old Heritage Site of the Jorasanko Thakurbari Campus in North Calcutta where “A galaxy of scholars, academics, performing artists, school, college and university students and teachers revelled together with Shakespeare enthusiasts from every walk of life” (as reported in the Times of India 14-12-08)

It all began with the Shakespeare Centre for Advanced Research (RBU) and the Shakespeare Society of Eastern India jointly welcoming Shakespeare pundits and experts from all over India and the rest of the Globe, teachers and students from schools, colleges and universities (especially students and staff from RBU) and all Shakespeare lovers to a picturesque and colorful Shakespeare Walk across the city of Kolkata. On 13th December at 2 in the afternoon Dr. KarunaSindhu Das, Vice-chancellor RBU and Dr. Tapati Mukhopadhayay, Registrar, RBU initiated the proceedings by garlanding the bust of Tagore at the JS Campus and led the procession with the Kolkata police in attendance through the city. The Shakespeare Walk organized to raise the cultural consciousness of the city of Kolkata traversed the 18 Kilometers from the Campus to Shakespeare Sarani where the Vice-Chancellor, RBU together with Dr. Stephen Simms, the World renowned Director of the Birmingham Theatre School, UK, Amitava Roy, President SSEI, Subir Dhar, Secretary SSEI and other VIP delegates garlanded the bust of Shakespeare placed at the crossing of Shakespeare Sarani and Jawaharlal Neheru Road. The walkers then proceeded to the famed RabindraSadan-Nandan Cultural Complex for a unique open air cultural get together. The delegates were serenaded by the famous Gurkha police band of the State after which songs from Shakespeare, recitations from his sonnets, scenes from his plays were presented by the Indian and Foreign performing artists.

After this gala prelude, the World Conference proper with its Business Sessions spread over four days (14-17) began on the 14th morning at the Heritage Site of the Tagore House.

for detail report 5th World Shakespeare Conference see past conferences