Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Shakespeare in Odd Places

Just finished reading Ishmael Beah's book, "Long Way Gone", about his life in Sierra Leone, including as a child soldier. I recommend it. The material is grim but the narrative flows without self-pity or dramatics.

Last night my wife and I watched "Bollywood/Hollywood", a movie by Deepak Mehta featuring Lisa Ray. Mehta did "Water" with Ray, which got an Oscar nominee as best foreign film. Ray is stunningly beautiful, and not a bad actress. The movie is fun if you don't take it seriously. It would help if I knew more about Bollywood films because it has some in-jokes, but it's still a pleasant evening. Plot: rich son needs someone to pose as his intended wife to get mother and grandmother off his back until his pregnant sister gets safely married.

How do these relate to Shakespeare? Well, Beah as a child recites Shakespearean speeches for family and friends. He also gets into rap, hip-hop, and reggae and treasures his cassettes of rappers whose names I barely recognize. After becoming a soldier, his lieutenant spends his down time reading Julius Caesar. In the movie, grandmother uses Shakespearean snippets in egging on her grandson.

So a barefoot boy from Avon writes language that 400 years later is part of the culture of both Sierra Leone and India. And rap evolves in the Caribbean and US and travels back to Africa. The world is strange and wonderful

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