The Old Wine and the New Bottle

Dear readers, I will be familiarising a few Shakespearean adaptations into regional languages in my few editions. As a part of my study, a minor research on Shakespeare across cultures, I came across very different takes on The Bard’s plays by able directors, when he was screened. Shakespeare is still in India, as he’s across the world!

Among the local adaptations of Shakespeare on Screen, here are a few that I would like to mention, that is screened for a targeted audience in their own language, Malayalam:

Kaliyattam (Othello)

Annayaum Rasoolum (Romeo & Juliet)

Karmayogi (Hamlet)

Kannaki (Antony and Cleopatra)

Veeram (Macbeth)

Speaking of the three among the above five films, Kaliyattam, Kannaki and Veeram, were from the Director, Jayaraj. In one of his interviews, he speaks of his enduring fascination with the Bard and how his characters haunted him!

‘The tragedy of Othello haunted me for many nights. Why would a man so much in love with his wife, kill her?’ in his interview with The Hindu, the Director exclaims.

Kaliyattam: The movie was not a mere adaptation, rather it was a creative one! Seasoned with the colours of folk art of Malabar, Theyyam, the movie won both critical and popular votes. ‘I have seen European audience sitting spell bound watching Kaliyattam. It’s a great feeling when an international crowd appreciates your take on Shakespeare,’ says Jayaraj.

Jayaraj’s Othello is drawn in the backdrop of Theyyam community. Othello becomes Kannan Perumalayan, Desdemona becomes his beautiful wife, Tamara.  Iago, the villain, becomes Paniyan. Perumalayan is a Theyyam artist who loved Tamara, the daughter of the village head, Unni Thampuran. (Brabantio) Thampuran hated Kannan for having an affair with Tamara as result of which, Paniyan who plays a Koomali, covets the role of Theechamundi which Kannan holds. Paniyan successfully plants the seeds of doubt of Tamara’s fidelity in Kannan’s mind, making him suspect that Tamara and his assistant Kanthan are having an affair.

Kannan, frustrated and furious, takes the life of Tamara by suffocating her with a pillow.  Paniyan plans to kill Kanthan on the same night, but the plan goes awry. Kannan is told of his mistake by Paniyan’s wife, Cheerma, before she gets killed by Paniyan. Kannan crushes Paniyan’s legs with a stone, but doesn’t kill him, thus allowing him to live the rest of his life crippled. Kannan gives the Thhechamundi role to Kanthan and commits suicide.

The Contadiction: The duality of Theyyam with the intrinsic conflict and contradiction that lies in the heart of Othello is intelligently portrayed by the Director. The contradiction of his nature is seen throughout the film. The most evident contradiction is the one that comes with the class and caste identity of Kannan. While outside the performative space he’s nothing but a lower caste performer, who eloped with an upper caste girl, within the performative space, he gains the status of a goddess. Perhaps this is a major deviation the movie takes from the original hero of Shakespeare. Thampuran never lets his men touch Kannan who was just about to perform. He bows down in front of Kannan, and asks for the blessings of the Goddess he is impersonating.  Theyyam was the only means to bring out a split personality. The same dichotomy was there in Othello’s mind also.

The schism that existed in Kannan’s mind due to jealousy and the insecurities he had about his lower caste, dark skin and that Tamara can never love him made him feel alienated. The very divide Othello felt, is the same!

The final scene of violence is very different in the movie. Kannan enters Tamara’s chamber with half of his makeup on, indicating that he’s between human and divine realms. Makeup plays a major role in making the last scene look more terrifying. Theyyam provides the right canvas to paint the contradictions and similarities of Kannan/Othello. Thus, Malabar became another Venice and Cyprus!


Tales of mis conceptional misery long heard is still echoing in the fields half-reaped, could you sense? I often misheard it to be the music of agony, while it sang the unheard song of pure joy. Her mellifluous voice was no more muted. Virtual deafness! Who else could I have blamed for my blindness?

Now that I am no more deaf and blind I could watch her moving her arms and hands back down , the edges of her frilled skirt flaunting victoriously while her choreographed legs ran through the soft grass bed. Pause! Is that a ball where she’s dancing? The unheard side of her song is superfluous! Barring my deafness, decibels came in a cadence , all the notes painted me with colours bright and varied.

The cacophony heard in the distance suddenly stopped. Were they the patriots of pessimistic art forms? She started seeking for the ‘Ode of Joy.’ The strings of her legs too abruptly stopped. Chorus, Chorus! She exclaimed. The retreating figures moved back, she was unable to pace with them. To her surprise, abnormally fat deluge roared in. More or less soaked, every tiny bit sang for her, devoid the thick and thin figures.

She sang, for Beethoven tuned her song. The harmony that followed was a credulous spectacle! Withdrawing figures from the distance peeked in. Their legs wanted to haste in, but lips hesitated. All her new mates held her hand, made wonderful pairs for her. Bowing them, humming to Beethoven, she merrily danced…to her soul’s satisfaction, also for the torments she went through, having enough tormentors, now lined behind. Rejoice! She mumbled. God is nothing but goodness and the good will definitely find him. Dance!


The silver star studded cloak you don;  
Turns the air silver, blades of grass
bending and waving with a sweet coldness,
Calls me over, come, fall in love!

You amble along, before the Sun, also late after Him,
I saunter around you, enthralling in your gait,
Your sap on my body keeps my third eye open
To receive your bounty, to evenly shower!
Is your colour Silver? Are you red When it's Christmas?
You have all the hues of Nature embodied
In a single look, a single spell,
You are Love personified, humanity explained!

Does it snow when you laugh? Is it your tears?
You bury human sins under your angelic wings,
Sprinkle holy water, singing songs
Of love, gifting mere joy and kindness!

 Why does it ache when you part with me?
You taught me to be kind and also love,
Dear December, recipients aren't many...
Before you go, just turn and look at me, 
I am in awe, gaping at the Permanent You!

The Ring of Fire

A nimbus encircling my secluded self;
Infused ink blue hue around the prodigy
I pettishly encompass beneath the blankets;
Relapsed and ruminated I bowed to her queries;
With a response but without an elucidation.

Clans, flesh and kindred, persona of my
Seclusion: hunky, ancestral and self defining,
They said it's my spinal nerves, stand for them,
Happiness is them, dependence is customary for
An Indian woman, she sacrifices and only burn herself.
Years of burning and the light's shade;
Crimson, pale yellow and then solemn black;
Now a circle. Lit a candle within me;
They said it's too bright, put off, be like a woman:
Unable to burn, I  yearned to open the windows around.

Reaching the patio and then the streets;
They blew, mouthful and in doses of storms.
The candle lit by the sparkle of the fire I 
gathered over the years only burnt, wasn't that
Enough to burn the halo? Could you see a rainbow
Around the nimbus? 

A Capsule for Happiness

Enmeshed in a world full of riddling opposites, we toil till we get tired in order to plot and plan for a painless panoramic image, where we think of fixing and framing our lives. Pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, profit and loss, victory and defeat, success and failure…one end of each pair is followed by another end that is capable of sinking one’s concept of happiness. Take a look, both the sides are not very different. How?

It’s because one of the two sets can’t exist without the other. We think something as pleasurable that the absence of other becomes what we think is painful. We just believe the world too much when it tells us we’ve lost, again we believe it when it says we’ve won. Do you see how it works? You can’t avoid the bad side of the equation, as rejecting the bad means denial of the good too. When we aren’t happy on any good that comes to you without sweating or suffering, that pleasure isn’t much. Similarly when we don’t love something that already exist in our lives, that pain isn’t much. Frankly, neither side ever lasts!

Accepting both the sides with the same sunny outlook could help you get over, but here’s another way of reaching your destination- reject both sides of each pair of opposites! Regardless of whatever you pick, you neither get elated nor depressed. You’re always calm, without any fear about failure, suspicious of victory, no sorrow over the loss of something, no anger at your rejection.’ Just do it’ whether your actions bring you rewards-or the failures- don’t worry. However disagreeable the work is, eventually it becomes your purpose, you will not worry about the results. The work itself will become the reward, and I am sure you will stop looking for the window seat.

This is the capsule for perfect and lasting happiness.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling too didn’t think different! Let’s cook happiness…

A Revisit to the Abode of Mahadev

Time for a spiritual journey! Most voyages and travelling by masses across the world is doubtlessly undertaken through the medium of literature. I have made my readers traverse around Thrissur district, the cultural hub of Kerala, many a times, specifically to its temples. A peaceful place, where your soul chanting Har Har Mahadev lets you mediate with your rights and wrongs, desires and wants is our destination this time. Brace yourself!

Thiruvanchikulam Uma Maheshwara temple is one among the ancient most, much visited temple which is believed to have been built by the Chera King, Cheraman Perumal in the 9th century. Located at Kottapuram, the temple is also an archeological site. One of the oldest, the temple after its inception is renovated only once, in 1801 AD after being demolished by the Sultan of Mysore, Tipu. According to legends, the Chera Shiva Saint, Sundara Murthy Nayanar set his journey towards Kailash( Lord Shiva’s abode) on a white elephant sent by the Lord himself from here. Cheraman Perumal followed him. The idols of both these personalities are ensconced in the temple along with other deities. The main deity is of Uma Maheshwara, represented by a Shivalingam, in the form of a half circle, said to be brought from Chidambaram Rameshwara temple, Tamil Nadu. The whole family of Lord Shiva, including Goddess Ganga resides here.

The temple is carved in traditional Kerala architecture, strictly according to Vasthu Shastra. The highlighting structure is that of Namaskara Mantapam with sixteen massive pillars. Carvings of elephants, gods and goddesses, murals depicting Hindu mythology, Shilabhallikas, wood and stone carvings attract many lovers of art to see and then muse at these structures. ‘Shankabhishekam’ on the idol(pouring of conch shaped flowers) is said to be Mahadev’s favourite offering. For togetherness among the couple, Dampathi Puja is also performed by the devotees.

Once you get back to the driver seat, after defeating the Pandemic, you can schedule a visit at your own leisure. Hope I could trigger your interest! Believe me, it’s a journey to Kailash indeed!

Immortal Beauty

'Beauty is truth, truth is beauty'-John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn.

Bathed in the light of my imagination,
Soaked in the cloud of truce and tranquillity,
Surrounding the aged palms and greens,
Lived a female cuckoo with a bubbling beak.
Her plaintive call, matched with a nightingale,
Suffused my innate sensations with glee.

Her song more like a speech for the day,
The day of realisations to a wandering soul.
Questioning on her alienation and beatitude,
The composition and the tone unmatched,
My belief, she became an instant mocking bird.
A while later she sang only to me.
Solitariness, no cause for soul's solitude,
Togetherness no reason to unsee and unearth,
The beauty in you and the things you see.
His presence is a phase momentary, beyond is by you.
Traverse the nodes, the lyrics you compose,
The tune of your tone, be just yours! 

On seeing a mate who just flew in,
She paused to resume her delightful voice.
Profound beauty is vested in love merely,
Love everything around, live every while you see.
A yearning mind for a loving friend,
Made me sing with her, beyond the bay, He heard me!

The Gita: The Inspiration

Remember this excerpt from ‘As You Like It,’

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

Wherein William Shakespeare reduces the role of human beings into ‘merely players?’

A bibliophile would have already bumped into many such similarities. Just that I am giving you a case.

50 centuries ago, in the sacred field of Kurukshetra, while battling with his own brothers and Great Gurus Arjuna faces an impending doom in his heart, he feels dejected, just as a coward feels:

“Do you even realise what you’re asking of me? Slaughtering my own brothers, murdering my teachers-how can that be the noble or right, in any universe?” Arjuna argues with his friend and charioteer, Krishna. On his mission to make Arjuna realise his sense of duty as a warrior, doing away his ignorance, in a conversational form, Krishna recites Gita. Shakespeare seems to have inspired by this fragment of Krishna’s advice:

‘Nothing in the Universe, Arjuna, escapes the constant cycle of birth and death. Just like the earth, the Universe also has day and night, each lasting a thousand ages. At the dawn of each long day, all that was asleep comes alive in the light. Night falls, and everything dissolves once again into the stillness of the dark. They have no choice.’

‘But beyond the constantly changing Universe, beyond everything that takes birth, lives and dies, over and over again, is something that is never born and never dies, which is constant and unchanging. That’s the Absolute, Partha, that is where I live.’

Don’t you feel William Shakespeare apparently agreed with Krishna when he said we have little control over the script of our lives?

By the Littoral

Touching the swaying refection,
That the still water drew roughly on herself,
I Sensed a lookalike between the waving me and myself.
A feather touch all that's needed
To make oneself evanesce.

Did I hear her? I did see her...

The portrayal fragmentary to my eyes,
Looked whole for any bloodless eyes!
The perturbed life, akin my soul, pondered.
 Hours spent, questioning the meaning of
The similitude, more dissimilitude.
'The world of movement, the word for life,
The lifeless too move with you, stride with you,
How did you stop just to manifest my resemblance?
Look! Your sketch scattered over,
A part of you, did you wait for me?'
Dotingly, she asked me to unearth the silhouette
Of the figure she drew, of rainbow colours.
Then dissolved, just to disappear
The instant current took it along the salty water,
As if to remind me of my replica's instability. 

What is that she wanted to verbalize? I did hear her...

'Dear replica, the contour isn't black, darkened
By the smoky vision, you couldn't dip yourself 
In colours, take a dip, stretch the hues!
It may violently hit the shores, may sink,
May dissipate, yet won't dry up to be black!'

Who murmured within me? You?
I need a make over, for I need to be ready
For the next act, for endless scenes! 


What I wish for, what I look for,
Regardless of what keeps me run my race,
Is just recognition, not fame.

Where it comes from, whom it comes from,
From minds sincere to see the life in words
That I write, that I breathe.
Like a smoke whirling and dancing around the fire,
My thoughts lights and shades me up,
From the darkening clouds, clouds of greed.

The pathway folded in spirals, is long enough,
With a carpet made of red, to be rolled out,
Stood I patiently, devotedly, with my inner eye open.

The world is still of good souls, the ones,
Who inhales good air that evades subterfuge,
Asks me to pace along, rather tenaciously!