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South Indian Shakespeare: An (im)Precise History

On Shakespeare’s death anniversary, a look at how different life would have been if the bard was South Indian.

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Curriculum Vitae/Bio-Data

Vijaya Shekhara Padmanabha Iyer (Alias William Shakespeare) was born on a Brhaspati Vaasara (Thursday) of Grishma Ritu (April, summer), Mesha Rasi (Aries), Ashwini Nakshatra (Aries Constellation), Raktukshi Samvatsara (1564).

He hails from Avogramam (alias Avon), in the deep Southern interior of Thanjavur District in South Tamil Nadu. He was born with a characteristic high forehead and small ‘thoppai’ (loosely translated as ‘belly’, but it is not an apt translation of the cute rotundity), both of which were his lifetime companions.

He showed literary prowess very early in life. Even as a little baby of one year two months, instead of ‘tha...tha...’ he would often say, ‘Thou...Thy..’ He would often correct his Vadhiyar’s (teacher’s) grammar mid-sentence during class, much to the Vadhiyar’s chagrin. When asked to write imposition on the sand, he would write limericks and sonnets on curd rice, mare’s fart (the weed, not the actual fart. What’s wrong with you?) and other topics of boyhood interest.

The Veritable Literary Genius!

Shekhar P Iyer wrote numerous laghu Kavyams (sonnets) and naatakams (dramas), all of which have attained global acclaim. Unlike dramatists of his time, his themes were based on everyday life and food, a childhood habit he refused to give up. Here are some quotes from some of his famous works.

(Graphics: The Quint/Liju Joseph)

We eventually hope to reproduce entire soliloquies written by the great Shekhar P Iyer. Watch out for this space. (I didn’t mean that as a warning. I don’t know why it came out that way.)

(This story was originally published on 7 May 2016. It is being reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark William Shakespeare’s death anniversary.)

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