Here I am again, almost in unknown territory – in any case, in a culture that I know very little about – so I will speak to you about it with a lot of awkwardness and even more ignorance – you will have to forgive me and if you want, correct me.
Shakuntala recognized is an Indian play – so beware, no modernity here, the first texts found date back to at least the 13th century.
It seems that Kalidasa is, in India, what Homer is for us, westerners: an author so masterful and so far away that we hardly have anything but fables to know who he is.
Fables – no doubt – but texts by him, that is a certainty.
Among his plays, Shakuntala.
Who hasn’t read Shakuntala? : that’s what the French, English and German romantics said at the beginning of the 19th century.
An idea of love :
Oh dear, I had not read Shakuntala. Too bad for me
Now I have – I have read it – I have read a good part of the notes of the edition – and ….
and of course I wondered why we should read Shakuntala, when it is a play, written for the theatre.
Here’s how I found myself wanting to see Shakuntala.
And don’t tell me it’s too old – yes I know
That it’s too “coded” in the play – I don’t doubt it for a second
That no one – except the Indians – will understand it at all: pfff, what a funny objection – of course everyone will understand.
You could tell me that an Indian story dating back to – at least – the 13th century is surely of no interest to a modern spectator.
I could almost agree with you.
Before I read it, yes, of course
But now I have read it –
If you have loved Legend, you will love Shakuntala.
If you have loved The Lord of the Rings, you will love Shakuntala
If you have loved Pikmin, you will love Shakuntala
If you like to hear about the association between nature and humans, you will love
If you like stories that tell the beauties and difficulties of true love, you will love
If you are not a pure materialist, you will love Shakuntala – I swear, promise & jure si vous voulez
Because the story of Shakuntala is a story of true love.
It begins with the meeting – and the meeting is under the happy auspices of nature, loved by the beautiful Shakuntala and respected by the king.
And as the love of the 13th century is exactly the same as the love of the 21st century, both are struck, both are moved, both are worried, both are anxious to know if they are loved in return, and both are almost even more anxious to know what to do with this love, which is turning their lives upside down and which they did not expect.
The journey is necessary and love finds its way –
Then it was the happy time of : Oh ? So you love me ? and I love you ? Oooooh…..
and all the wonders of the world are less sparkling than this joy, so strange and so precious
but – but : true love always produces the same effects – what do these lovers think of when they are separated? but of the other of course –
then the rest of the world no longer exists for them, and the rest of the world takes its revenge
Here come the torments, the sufferings, the denials, the false words and the pierced hearts
It is the time of waiting – the time of the ignition of the great love –
if it survives the waiting, the test of fire, the ugly words, the ugly thoughts, if it remains intact in spite of everything, then the great love is consecrated and will have become a force of joy and life that nothing will be able to weaken.
Indian theatre is not like Western theatre on this point too.
It does not need to be fed by the tears of lovers.
It does not live on drama, on bloodshed, on disasters, revenge and hatred.
So, after the time of fire, tears and infinite sadness, comes, naturally, the true time of happiness – the time of the second encounter, which is the time of the true encounter, the one that opens the paradise.
And it is exactly for this, and for this major difference between the spirits of these “two theatres” that Shakuntala would be an enchantment on our contemporary Western stages.
All this without adding that this theatre is played, yes, but it is also danced, yes, but it is also sung, yes, but it is also choreographed, yes, but it is also versified sometimes, yes, but but but? yes, it is a complete show.
Should we modernize it, betray the traditions?
It is certainly not for me to say that
It is up to those who choose to stage it –
knowing that almost everything is so human that the essence of the text is eternal, then… well…
so you see… I’m on my way, called for now : Indian theatre
Featured Image :Shakuntala painted by Reddy Prasad