In Search of a Happy Ending: The Afterlife of Romeo and Juliet on the Asian Screen
AbstractThis essay takes as its starting point the view that the afterlife of Romeo and Juliet in several Asian Shakespearean film adaptations is characterised by the presence of a happy ending. The film corpus used consists of adaptations set in countries such as India (1942: A Love Story, Issaq and Ram-Leela), China (Qing Renjie), Singapore (Chicken Rice Wars) and Japan (a Japanese TV adaptation of Romeo and Juliet). The first section explores how the ending is actually altered and the second provides a brief historical overview of Romeo and Juliet in these countries and considers why all these adaptations feel the need to transform the tragic dénouement for a happy resolution. As post-colonial—and hybridised—works, or simply works aiming to resist Western hegemonic power, the purpose of the adaptations considered is two-fold: to challenge the Western authority of Shakespeare and to offer a new way of reading the play via the use of mimicry, parody or the burlesque. The last section then demonstrates the strategies used by all these adaptations to advance an inauthentic ending; they all “cheat” and play with the audience. All the modern-day adaptations explored highlight the need to have popular appropriations of the play—beyond straightforward literary productions—which reinterpret and rewrite the Shakespearean play in an Asian context in order to make it their own. Following a postcolonial framework, this essay shows that it becomes necessary to understand the rewriting of Romeo and Juliet in some Asian countries. Experimentation, recreation and parody abound in all these adaptations, with clear political implications.Keywords: Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet; adaptation; happy ending; cinema; Asia
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