Grounding Hamlet in India’s Northeast


It goes without saying that Hamlet is one of the finest creations of pioneering English playwright William Shakespeare. This is one play which will never have an end; a fact evident in the packed houses to which this play is still performed in the British capital of London, getting to hear references of the play in each and every sphere of life in as diverse a place as Asom! And why not? Shakespeare might have based the play in the locales of Britain but in reality, the play can be grounded anywhere and everywhere in the world, given the universal traits of its characters and events which are always so very relative.

Yes, Hamlet is an epic in the true sense of the term. Every theatre worker in this world has an insatiable urge to stage the epic play at some point or the other of their lives. It is secondary whether they have the potential to do justice to the subject or not; after all it is the creative urge that matters. It is this very urge which prompted theatre director Arun Hazarika to stage an Asomiya adaptation of Hamlet, Rajkumar Hemendrajit, which has brought him national recognition by winning two awards in the highly solicited Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards.

As I said before, the universal nature of the play is evident in the myriad ways in which different playwrights have deciphered its essence. Asomiya theatre director Anup Hazarika believes that Hamlet is possible at all the places where mankind is present. As he remarks, “Hamlet is present even in the air that we breathe in the Northeastern part of India. I’m trying to find Hamlet in my own familiar world — to see and analyse it through the eyes of someone who has lived his life in our part of the country. Rajkumar Hemendrajit is a humble attempt to find the universality and value system of Hamlet in the mindset of the people of the Northeast.”

Though I personally have watched numerous adaptations of Hamlet which tried to decipher the epic in different hues, it was a pleasure to watch Rajkumar Hemendrajit at the Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts, where it was staged recently. The fact that the play Rajkumar Hemendrajit is based in regional settings, to which we can all easily relate to, is what made it all so interesting. The brilliant costumes designed by Rabijita Gogoi also reflected the variegated hues of the State, which added to the overall appeal of the play.

Rajkumar Hemendrajit has been produced by ‘Baa’ (The Creative Breeze), a well known theatre group of Guwahati. The play won two awards in the prestigious Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) 2008 held earlier this year. Those two are the Best Supporting Actress Award (Pakiza Begum) and Best Lighting Design Award (Anup Hazarika). The META Awards was instituted by the Mahindra Group in 2006 to promote, recognise and reward the best in Indian theatre. The only national award of its kind, META is designed to showcase the best in theatre produced in India. The overall objective is to encourage all aspects of theatre — craft, including play writing, set design, costume and light design, direction and performance.

The cast list of the Asomiya adaptation includes some of the most prolific names in the theatre world of the State. The translation was carried out by Amritjyoti Mahanta while Anup Hazarika adapted, designed and directed the play. Baharul Islam provided the musical scores and the set and costumes were designed by Anup Hazarika and Rabijita Gogoi respectively. The costumes and lighting were exemplary and it is no wonder that the play bagged the META Awards in lighting design category. However, despite all the hula boo surrounding the play, I still feel that the Asomiya adaptation was one of the weak links in the entire play. Though Pakija Begum and Abhijit Goswami were impressive in the roles of Garima and Rajkumar Hemendrajit, the other actors failed to make much of an impact.

But my personal opinions do not in anyway undermine the achievements of the play. While there were as many as 14 awards at stake, ‘Baa’ (the Creative Breeze) managed to bag two awards by competing with other prominent groups from Mumbai, new Delhi, Pune, Kochi and Bangalore. Rajkumar Hemendrajit certainly ushers in a new era for Asomiya theatre.

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Posted on January 15, 2010, in Concerts/ Reviews, Day-to-Day and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Congratulation

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