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Bond with bard & the city

Madhav Sharma performs Bharat Blighty & The Bard at Scottish Church College. Picture by Arnab Mondal

It was an emotional homecoming for Indian-born British actor Madhav Sharma, back in the city to perform at his alma mater, Scottish Church College, at an event to mark the 450th birth anniversary of Shakespeare.

Even after a power-packed solo performance that lasted over two hours, the septuagenarian was bursting with energy and enthusiasm as he spoke about “the city of my birth and of so many wonderful memories”.

“When you love someone a lot it is sometimes difficult to face her. That is what happened between me and Calcutta and that’s why I kept away from the city of my birth and of so many wonderful memories for so long,” Sharma said. A friend in Kerala finally convinced Sharma to make the journey and “face” his beloved city.

“Scottish Church College itself evokes such wonderful memories. I can never forget the joy of winning gold at an inter-varsity debate,” shared the actor, who had majored in physics from the college.

Facing the audience, many of them old buddies, at his alma mater, with a bust of Shakespeare behind him, the actor spoke about the relevance of Shakespeare in today’s world, the bard’s influence on him, his life as juxtaposed with the Bard’s and also enacted bits from various plays and sonnets.

Sharma also shared some of his own reflections like how there is no depiction of happy marriages in any of Shakespeare’s plays though many lovers walk down the aisle in the end. “That is perhaps because of Shakespeare’s own marriage,” he explained.

The actor spoke about his father, who would make him read Shakespeare out loud as he swam, thus fanning the acting flame in him. From sharing tidbits about the Bard’s life, family and his renunciation of them to how he got inducted in the repertory theatre company, Shakespeareana, by the legendary Geoffrey Kendal, the actor bared his heart out to the audience.

Shakespeare continues to remain Sharma’s first love but there are others equally special. “How can I not mention Tagore? I love his poetry. I also enjoy reading my nephews Pico Iyer and Ramachandra Guha. But you seldom tell your family members how much you enjoy their work. I can only tell that to others,” Sharma said.

Sharma plans to spend his seven days in Calcutta not just performing his play, Bharat Blighty & The Bard directed by Miranda Lapworth, but visiting a few favourite haunts.

“I plan to visit the Coffee House where I spent so many lovely hours with my first love. I would also like to visit the Victoria Memorial, Hastings (where my father lived), have phuchka at the Maidan and beer at the Grand. It’s a very emotional time for me.