When it comes to the arts, it is impactful when something new is born out of something familiar and popular, thus lending new meaning to the original work of art. We have seen thousands of famous plays or books adapted into films, many songs inspired by literature, short stories converted and enacted as plays, and various other forms of adaptations.
One of the most elegant aspects of art is how one can borrow or be inspired from the source material (be it any form) and convert it into another medium of art, thereby creating a different or renewed meaning. A good example would be the groundbreaking anti-war novel and a personal favorite All Quiet on the Western Front which depicts the horrors of the First World War trenches from the perspective of a young German soldier. The book has been translated into over 20 languages, inspired several plays, and adapted into a renowned 1930s Hollywood film.
Adaptations can be so interesting because it takes the art of translation one step further. It exemplifies the source text and adds layers of meaning to it, thereby creating something fresh, that is culturally relevant to contemporary times. That is exactly what Akram Hossain Khan, a talented Bangladeshi-British dance choreographer has done with the universally beloved childhood storybook, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Akram has induced a sense of exigency and reinterpreted the well-known stories from the book from another perspective — through the lens of today’s children, who will inherit this world and become the storytellers of tomorrow.
Within the crux of The Jungle Book, there is the underlying serious threat that mankind poses to nature. In the storybook, Mowgli was the protagonist, a human baby raised in the kingdom of animals. He lived in an Indian forest with his foster parents, who were wolves and all of Mowgli’s friends were animals. Akram and his crew have reimagined Mowgli’s journey through the eyes of a refugee caught in a world destroyed by the impact of climate change. The dance performance is the story of a child, with whom we can empathize, and who will help us to listen not to our voices but to the voices of the natural world. The child is symbolic of nature’s voice, which the modern world tries so hard to suppress. The performance, titled 'Jungle Book Reimagined' hopes to appeal to all generations and propel them to unlearn, learn, and reimagine a new world together.
"We are now living in unprecedented and uncertain times, not only for our species but for all species on this planet. And the root cause of this conundrum is that we have forgotten our connection to our home, our planet. We all inhabit it, we all take from it, and we all build on it, but we have forgotten to return our respect for it."
Akram is one of the most talented contemporary male dancers and choreographers. His grace and technique shine through his own performances, for which he has won several international accolades. His background is rooted in classical kathak training and contemporary dance. In 2014, he choreographed for a ballet company a World War I-themed ballet titled Dust, for the English National Ballet, which was carved out of political sensibility and grace. He has also co-starred with legendary Indian dancer Pandit Birju Maharaj and the sensational French actress, Juliette Binoche, to name a few. His first full-length work Kaash, a collaboration with Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor and British musician Nitin Sawhney, was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002 and managed to impress dance enthusiasts from all over the world.
The Jungle Book Reimagined made its world premiere on 7 April 2022, Curve, Leicester. It will be showcased in the coming months in France, UK, and Austria. If you’re on an international trip or have friends or family living overseas, be sure to catch the master choreographer’s work live.
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