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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Pop Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0577  Monday, 24 March 2003

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 14:21:53 -0000
        Subj:   SHK 14.0564 Pop Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 12:50:36 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0564 Pop Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Jennifer Drouin <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Mar 2003 12:23:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Bollywood Shakespop


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 14:21:53 -0000
Subject: Pop Shakespeare
Comment:        SHK 14.0564 Pop Shakespeare

"Incidentally, is there any doubt that Shakespeare, had he lived later,
would have written musicals?"

Yes - he left that up to Jonson, and criticized his efforts in The
Tempest.

martin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 12:50:36 -0400
Subject: 14.0564 Pop Shakespeare
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0564 Pop Shakespeare

Don Bloom asks,

>Incidentally, is there any doubt that Shakespeare, had he lived later,
>would have written musicals?

Since he didn't live later, the answer is obviously 'yes'.

Yours,
Sean.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jennifer Drouin <
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Date:           Saturday, 22 Mar 2003 12:23:31 -0500
Subject:        Re: Bollywood Shakespop

Richard Burt wrote:

>Jennifer is far more generous to the film than I am.  [snip]
>As I believe I made clear, I think the film is a piece of crap,
>regardless of Mehta's earlier films, which I confess I have not seen.

My generosity towards the film comes precisely from seeing Mehta's
previous work, _Fire_.  I find it impossible that any director who made
_Fire_ could make this film without the same socio-political investment.
On the other hand, stranger things have been known to happen, and given
how she got burned (no pun intended) making _Water_, perhaps she simply
wanted to go commercial and raise some cash for other projects. I
haven't read the interviews and don't know her motivations, but the same
thing happened here in Quebec. Pierre Falardeau couldn't get federal
funding to make _15 fevrier 1839_, so he went out and made _Elvis
Gratton 2_ which had commercial appeal and raised enough money for him
to make the film he really wanted to make.  It could be the same
phenomenon, in which case my generosity is overstretched.

>This is not to say that one shouldn't talk about it, of course.  But I
>see no point in trying to save it by saying, in effect, that it mimes
>the supposedly sly and subversive mimicry articulated by post-colonial
>theorists like Homi Bhaba.  It seems to me, in any case, that Jennifer's
>defense of the film is a version of the mimetic fallacy--to make a film
>criticizing bad films, you have to make a bad film.

Point taken. The film definitely could have been better. However, I
don't think this discounts entirely the presence of the postcolonial
element. To me, it's clearly still there, although I admit that it could
have been conveyed more effectively if the rest of the film were better.
But Mehta does the poco critique in _Earth_, and most people haven't
seen that (including myself, yet). I think it comes down to questions of
audience, which again leads back to the Hollywood debate. Pick an
obvious signifier of India's colonization, Shakespeare, dumb it down and
convey the message as minimally as possible, but reach a much wider
audience than the better made films ever did. A lousy trade-off
artistically, but a sure bet in terms of audience.

Don Bloom wrote:

>On the one hand, I'm not sure I can recall ANY Hollywood musicals set in
>English fields of green. What is she thinking of here?

Not Hollywood with a "h". I had written Bollywood with a "b", the Indian
film industry, not the American one. Muscial scenes in the English
countryside are apparently almost mandatory features of Bollywood films,
and are ridiculous in the sense that one doesn't find wide-open, green,
English country fields in India. Not only is the image drastically out
of place both geographically and in terms of the aesthetic landscape of
India, but it also harks back to colonialist values that England is
inherently "better" than India, as if one couldn't fall in love anywhere
other than England (which, come to think of it, gives a whole new
meaning to the phrase "Lie back and think of England.").

>On the other, I can't see why there is something innately ridiculous
>about setting a musical (a notably fantastical form) in any given
>locale. Which are the acceptable locales, and which are the ridiculous
>ones.

Personally, I think spontaneously breaking into song in any locale is
always somewhat ridiculous, but that was not the point I was making. The
juxtaposition of India with the English countryside, and the
juxtaposition of both of those with a concrete condo against the Toronto
skyline is the source of the film's parody, not the musical genre per se
(although one could read it that way as well, especially given how often
the film employs the musical). It's the juxtaposition of locales which
is ridiculous, and it just happens that the musical outbursts are the
tip-offs which tune us in to those juxtapositions.

>Incidentally, is there any doubt that Shakespeare, had he lived later,
>would have written musicals?

Couldn't we argue that he did? Many of Shakespeare's comedies employ
spontaneous musical outbursts. There are songs in Twelfth Night, Much
Ado, The Winter's Tale, Antony and Cleopatra (and many more plays I'm
sure which don't immediately pop to mind). To a certain degree, can't we
say that those songs which intervene mid-play are precurseurs to the
contemporary musical?  I don't think it's true, of course, but wouldn't
it be ironic if that's where Bollywood derived the idea from as one more
vestige of colonialism....

Jennifer Drouin

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