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  The Bard goes Tantric
   By: Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi

April 2, 2006

Like father, like daughter: Raell and Alyque Padamsee team
up for Macbeth

Raell Padamsee, producer

The search for a tantric advisor was very difficult — we couldn’t find people who spoke in English. Then a friend Anushree Banerjee introduced us to Subhojit. We were enthralled with the time he’d spent researching the topic and applying it in the creative field and I realised we all shared the same vision.

It’s tough to work with a parent. But there’s so much mutual respect between us. As a director I know I want the sun, moon and stars and I want it now. So when Dad says ‘I want this’, I say ‘Okay, I’ll try and get it for you’. Touchwood, we have actually got the best team.

And I am confident that the language of Shakespeare will be loved and understood in this production. If the language is not spoken to be understood, what is the point of Shakespeare?

Alyque directs Carla Singh in his tantric interpretation of Macbeth

Alyque Padamsee, director

Twenty years ago, I read a book called The Feminine Force by a Dutch author. That’s when I drew the parallels between the story of Macbeth and Tantra. For 20 years, I looked for the perfect Lady Macbeth and I have found her in Lushin.

Our team is in essence a karmic constellation. I did not want to produce such a mammoth play. But between Raell, Subhojit and Lushin the stars were right and I decided to go direct it. When I told Louis Banks I wanted tantric music he was excited and got cracking with Subhojit. Raell got Tarun Tahiliani enthused and so he decided to design the costumes.

The story of Macbeth is driven by Lady Macbeth and she is the tantric shakti who drives Macbeth forward. I always knew that in Tantra the female force is the driving one. Subhojit's ideas were very useful which I modified to suit a theatrical presentation not a literal one. Nothing that you see on stage is used in tantric form.


                                      Subhojit Dasgupta

Subhojit Dasgupta is a 29-year-old Acharya of Tantra and Vedic sciences  as well as a telecommunications and electronics engineer. He has interpreted Macbeth through the lens of tantric rituals for Alyque and Raell. He last assisted on Subhash Ghai’s Kisna.

Our Macbeth has been inspired by the rituals of Tantra and not its philosophy. At our first meeting, I explained the Shiva Shakti principle to Alyque and Raell Padamsee.

It’s where the woman, who is the creating force, arouses the male, who is the medium for creation. Drawing a parallel in the play, Lady Macbeth and the three witches are shown as practising tantrics. They practice what is known as left-handed Tantra, which has the rajasik and tamasik tattvas and involves sex.

Through this, we answer a lot of unanswered questions in Macbeth. For example, when Macbeth undergoes, let’s call it a bedroom ritual, through Lady Macbeth, he has a dark tantric awakening.

With Lady Macbeth goading him on, through the natural flow of power, Macbeth becomes a killing machine to justify the witches’ prophecies. At this point, Macbeth becomes dark and Lady Macbeth simultaneously declines into a shell. We find that she sinks into an internal melancholia.

With this tantric interpretation, the audience can expect to be transported through the use of chakras, twirling dances and tantric subtonic sounds.

The audience will feel the power but it is an illusion. Having said that, the original Shakespearean language has not been modified at all, so there is no change in the original script, save for some editing, for length.

The combined effect of this mystifying sound, lighting, music, costume and rituals will enhance the level of the show experience.

Lushin Dubey, actor playing Lady Macbeth

In the last four to five years I have been doing Shakespeare with a difference. I played Desdemona in the Othello that won the Fringe Award at Edinburgh. I am open to doing anything fresh.

Alyque’s interpretation and depiction of Lady Macbeth is a cocktail in which there are many nuances. Essentially the tantricism is decoded as a woman.

Lady Macbeth is seen as a woman who is strong and ambitious, translated into a possession and nervous energy. It’s the nature of a woman, who loves Macbeth and converts it into possessing what is right for him and injecting him with it. The flipside is that disintegrates, crumbles and destroys her in a very jagged way.

Tarun Tahiliani, designer

It was interesting to meet Subhojit. I had no idea what tantra philosophy was and was fascinated by the idea. So it was a confluence of ideas with Subhojit Dasgupta and the director Alyque Padamsee, who wanted to use tantric colours as the characters moved into their demonic mode.

I adored the idea of Indian mysticism mixed up with Macbeth and the layering of different cultures on the universal plot of ambition. I did think that the costumes, therefore, could have had more of an Indian reference but the director felt otherwise, using Tantra symbolically for colour.

Louis Banks, composer

This experiment that we’re doing with sound is replete with dark themes, witchcraft, very ominous and foreboding. After all, there are so many murders in the play.

The music belongs to the lower frequencies and will be projected to evoke vibrations in your body. I’ve used Raag Deepak, a rarely used raag meant to invoke fire and layered that with tantric frequencies that you can feel in your bones.

When I heard the music first, I felt a slight giddiness and a tingling. But it’s not scary, just evocative!

Fali Unwalla, set designer

I did not want to use the exact symbols of Tantra. There were some specific connotations which were highly sexual, one about power and lust and some that were simple geometric within geometrics. I modified these symbols to improve their decorative value and used them on the floor, beds and details. I also introduced a snake and a gargoyle in places because so much of it is about supernatural, magic, good and evil.

Macbeth opens on April 15 at Sophia Bhabha Auditorium, Mumbai