Other parallel sessions discussed cricket, poetry and politics
The afternoon session’s debate on ‘The greatness of Shakespeare is his language’ took a fascinating turn with the audience’s instinctive agreement with the motion being challenged by masterly rebuttal by the opposing team.
Theatre director, Alyque Padamsee opened for the motion and the venue rang to his passionate evocation of Shakespeare’s many-splendoured contribution to the English language as he grippingly declaimed passages from the various plays. He showed how, from the most routine to the most evocative, so many words we use today were first coined by Shakespeare. He said that the music of Shakespeare’s dialogue comes from the iambic pentameter which gives rhythm to the words. Although his plots were never original, his words were what “grabbed his audience by the ears.” Shakespeare is a dramatist, and a dramatist lives in the space of sound, between the actor’s mouth and audience’s ears. Shakespeare is still one of the best purveyors of human emotion in the world.
Writer and publisher, Carlos Gamerro opened against the motion and pointed to the crucial fact that the language of many great writers is inaccessible to other cultures – in the case of Shakespeare everyone doesn’t speak English. But they are still read and have great influence in translation, not just on various bodies of literature but also on individual readers the world over. For example, Homer and Virgil are mostly read in translation, not in original, and they still have impact. This shows that words may lose or change in translation, but the works of great writers have the power to go beyond original text. The greatness of a writer is not tied to his language.
Founder and Managing Partner of Counselage India, Suhel Seth supported Padamjee’s contention and stressed the innate relevance of language in the beauty and the everlasting impact of Shakespeare’s plays.
Gateway Theatre’s Artistic Director, Simon Choa-Johnston also made a forceful case for the importance of stage craft and characterisation in Shakespeare’s plays which are not wholly dependent on the vehicle of the English language.
Internationally acclaimed writer Soumya Bhattacharya chaired the debate and linked together various opposing strands and counter arguments.
The debate was witty, scintillating and strongly fought. The team opposing the motion credibly turned the debate around. From a vote predominantly for the motion at the beginning of the session, the audience had its mind changed by the end and voted predominantly against.
In a parallel session at the NCPA, a packed hall witnessed a lively discussion on ‘Reading off the pitch’. On the panel were journalist Ayaz Menon, writer Rohit Brijnath and co-editor of The Nightwatchman Anjali Doshi, and the discussion was chaired by author Dilip D’Souza. The audience was regaled by several fascinating anecdotes and brilliant sport-writing practices.
Prithvi Theatre saw Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, P. Chidambaram, writer and journalist Sanjaya Baru and author Vinay Sitapati come together for the session ‘Narasimha Rao: The Forgotten Hero.’ The panellists took the audience down memory lane, discussing the political legacy of India’s 10th Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao who is regarded as one of the architects of modern India. Reminiscing about being Commerce Minister at that time, Mr. Chidambaram expressed his admiration for Mr. Rao, who had to face several challenges as Prime Minister, including new economic reforms.
At the ‘Language of Poetry’ session at Prithvi Theatre, the novelist Simon Armitage gave a wide-ranging talk about the correlation between poetry and geography, expanding the parameters within which poetry is viewed.
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