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Transcript of Intercultural
The production dramatized the epic’s main storyline—the tale of an ancient, high-cast dynastic conflict involving two opposed camps of cousins, the Pandavas (“sons of light”) and the Kauravas (“Sons of darkness”). In New York, it also encountered scepticism and, in some quarters, outright hostility; at issue was the ethics of Brook’s inter-culturalism, which some condemned as Orientalism and cultural piracy. Brook and Carrière had to develop a strategy to translate the Mahabharata so that it would be meaningfully received by international audiences and so that it could be presented in accordance with the theatrical language which they had developed and espoused in work which preceded this project. They chose to maximize accessibility and identification by widening the focus of the story itself, expanding its frame of reference from its being the poetical history of India to its being the "poetical history of all mankind." Brook and Carrière's choice established the foundation for most of the subsequent interpretative decisions about the production and it established the foundations for the most pointed accusations of orientalist appropriation. It was originally meant to be recited or enacted by professional bards, musicians and dancers. As a text, it is the world's longest poem, containing, in the current Indian version, over 90,000 stanzas divided into eighteen volumes. Translation from one culture to another raises many theoretical and practical issues which require careful and patient analysis, especially given the "vertiginous nature of any attempt to theorize translation" (Chow 183).
One relatively straightforward issue is the potential loss of much that is considered to be essential to the form and substance of the 'original.' In fact, Brook's The Mahabharata was bitterly attacked for its simplification of characterization and plot, its attenuation of a Hindu world view, its downplaying of caste and its avoidance of "a confrontation of the historical context of Indian culture" (Bharucha 232).
Though we may not be aware of it, our government has bought this appropriation of our culture through its official support of the production in Europe and America. It will continue to support the production in Japan as part of its promotion of 'festival culture' throughout the world. Eventually, we may even see the production in India itself-where else but on the banks of the Ganges? ~ A View From India For Brook, the choice of a very selective evocation of India was essential to maximize contact and a sense of intimacy between the audience and the performers. For the critic Bharucha, it typified Brook's avoidance of Indian tradition, an "evasion of responsibility" which led to the charge of orientalist appropriation: "When Brook says in the foreword to his play that "we have tried to suggest the flavour of India without pretending to be what we are not," he is gracefully evading a confrontation of the historical context of Indian culture" Rustom Bharuca It was denounced as "only orientalism" (Wirth 288),"cultural piracy" (Zarrilli 98), or "worse, cultural rape" (Chaudhuri 193). It was celebrated as "the theatre spectacle of the century... a theatre event of such epic proportions that it will change the Mahabharata-as-world-text-forever" (Mishra 201).