British-based arts group, Saudha, to present unusual evening of poetry, spoken word, drama and music marking contributions of two writers and all set to tour after premiere…
TWO giants of modern 20th century poetry from two continents are to be celebrated in a unique stage production this Saturday (October 2).
Prominent poets and spoken word artists inspired by TS Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ and Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam’s ‘Bidrohi’ – and translated commonly, as ‘The Rebel’ – will perform from both works, with the Bengali being translated into English.
Both poems were published in book form in 1922 and this stage production is a form of centenary celebration and will go on a staggered UK tour, with different contributors, after its premiere in Leeds and is set to be performed in Bangladesh and India as well later.
Ahmed Kaysher, co-founder and director of Saudha, Society of Poetry and Indian Music, which is mounting the production, has dramatised imaginary encounters and conversations – with actors also performing roles as well as reading and spoken word spots.
Among the scenes is an adaptation of a real conversation from 1948, between TS Eliot (played by poet John Farndon) and Oxford University Professor Shiv K Kumar (Shantanu Goswami) and Kaysher has added to it creatively to bring out the essential themes and connections between Eliot and his own reflections on Indian thought and culture.
There will also be introduction by prominent academic and poet Oz Hardwicke, who will set out why these two classics should be celebrated.
Kaysher told www.asianculturevulture.com: “This combines acting, live music, dramatised readings and reciting from the poems.”
Eliot, who died in 1965, aged 76, ends ‘The Wasteland’ with several Sanskrit words and there has been much discussion about his reasons for doing so.
His poem is widely seen as a multi-faceted response to the horrors and sufferings of the first World War (1914-1918) and aspects of Western Civilisation which have been found wanting or even absent. He draws upon Eastern philosophy and thought to create a poem that is a form of inquiry and distinct in the way that it asks questions about life, culture and the way we think, behave and feel.
“This is modern poetry and one about ideas not just about feelings. I believe there is a symbolic merging of two rich poetic traditions,” Kaysher, who is also a poet himself and Bengali folk singer. “Eliot was very influenced by his own reading of Indian philosophy and works such as ‘The Bhagavad Gita’. He ends ‘The Wasteland’ with the mantra, ‘Shantih, Shantih, Shantih’. He also had read Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 and Nobel Literature Laureate in 1913) as had Nazrul and they (Eliot and Nazrul) were inspired by many similar things.
“The poets won’t just be reading but performing the work,” explained Kaysher, who is also directing this centenary celebration of ‘The Wasteland’ and ‘Bidrohi’.
“Nazrul’s poetry is also very powerful and is also a response to war and suffering. He served with the British Army but was a nationalist and anti-colonialist. He was very opposed to bigotry, oppression and subjugation.
“It will be an uplifting evening – and one that connects people and expresses the emotions of these very fine poets in talking about the human condition and displaying their essential and eternal humanity.”
It is also set to come to London and other cities in the UK as well as Bangladesh and India – Kobi Nazrul University in West Bengal, is looking to incorporate this production into its centenary celebrations at the end of this year.
It is hard to underestimate the influence both poems had on their respective audiences; for many, ‘The Wasteland’ represents the birth of modern 20th century verse in English, while ‘Bidrohi’ was also hugely influential and cemented Nazrul’s reputation.
Recognised as the national poet of Bangladesh today, Nazrul died aged 77 in 1977 and his poetry in defence of rights and self-determination inspired by freedom fighters against British colonial rule at the time, also helped to drive the movement to create Bangladesh, a new country, from what was East Pakistan, in 1971. Nazrul suffered from health problems in later years and was not as active as he once was and lived in India before being invited to reside in the newly created Bangladesh.
In all there will be 14 contributors to the 90-minute show and while the production in Leeds is a one-off it is already scheduled to be come to Rich Mix in London on November 14 and go to the British Library in London in December and other venues and cities as well.
Among those performing will be Becky Cherriman, Miles Salter, spoken-word artist Jon Erik Schelander, poet and writer Shree Ganguly and spoken-word artists Shantanu Goswami, Milly Basu, Kaniz Fatema Chowdhury, Mohammed Sadif, Ehsan Ahmad Raj, Abhra Bhowmick, Manash Chowdhury and award-winning photographer Pablo Khaled is responsible for the visual dimension of this show.
Ganguly took to Twitter to talk more about this production and you will find more about the individuals participating on the Saudha’s Twitter account.
Seven Artspace, 31(a) Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds LS7 3PD