Bollywood met Shakespeare for a screening last Thursday in the Drenan Auditorium at Keene State College. On Feb. 25, students and faculty gathered to watch Vishal Bhardwaj’s “Maqbool,” a modern take on William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
Professor of English at KSC Brinda Charry said the screening was part of the college’s celebration for the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
“Not many of us are going to be remembered for four hundred years, so we wanted to celebrate what has been an outstanding legacy really of someone who is not only an outstanding writer I think, but also a sort of institution really – a cultural institution,” she said.
Charry also said it was important that this institution be celebrated from different perspectives, and that Shakespeare is well adapted to the Bollywood perspective because the styles are so similar.
She said, “Bollywood oddly enough is a lot like Shakespeare. It’s vague and dramatic and over-exaggerated and that is the Shakespearean style – not the realistic, understated, subtle style that we like today. Shakespeare’s style is vague and grand and old and even a little bit gaudy and that is the Bollywood style of filmmaking.”
Associate Professor of Film Studies at KSC Jiwon Ahn said that, while she overall enjoyed the film, there were certain aspects of the story where the different styles made changes unavoidable.
Although Ahn said she does not have that much experience with Bollywood, she said she was able to see a gender disparity between the actors, among other aspects of the film.
“Some of the motivations and character developments cannot but be different. I read ‘Macbeth’ like thirty years ago but I felt like – while the performance was superior and fantastic and it was a very interesting drama – at the same time [there were] more subtle psychological dimensions,” she said.
Ahn, who was an English major in her undergrad years, said she was curious about the event because she read a great deal of Shakespeare in college. She also said that her interest in Bollywood films drew her to the screening.
Charry said that this interest in Bollywood was one of the reasons she chose this film in particular for the screening.
“Bollywood is really the world’s largest film industry,” she said, “We may not all like it but it is the world’s largest film industry and it’s got a very unique aesthetic and I think it’s important for our students who are interested in cinema in general to be introduced to what is such a powerful and such a popular film industry.”
As for the play itself, Charry said she chose “Macbeth” over Bollywood adaptations of Shakespeare’s other works because of its popularity.
“I think people are familiar with ‘Macbeth’ as opposed to many of the other productions,” she said, “People tend to know ‘Macbeth’ and they’ve studied it in high school, so it doesn’t need a big introduction.”
This is the case for KSC sophomore and English and secondary education major Talia Follansbee who said that, although she is “not as familiar [with ‘Macbeth’] as some of the other plays,” she understands the story. Follansbee said it was refreshing to see an adaptation of “Macbeth” as opposed to one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays like “Hamlet” or “Romeo and Juliet.”
As for Bollywood, Follansbee said she has seen a couple of films, but wouldn’t exactly consider herself familiar with the genre. “I was a little hard to follow, but I’m really glad that I got the chance to watch it,” she said.
Follansbee said she’s looking forward to attending future Shakespearean events on campus for the anniversary celebration.
w she said, “I know that there’s at least one other movie showing that I plan to be at.”
Maxwell Blanchette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.