The Themes that Haunt Us All: The After-effects of War

November 21, 2016

Tags: Mahabharata, Peter Brook, Kurosawa, universal themes in art



Thirty years ago, the British director Peter Brook staged the great Indian epic poem, "The Mahabharata" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The cast was multi-ethnic. The point was, that art is universal. That the themes speak to humanity.

The philosophy of the Mahabharata is grounded in the great Hindu themes, but the script was written by a Frenchman and parts were played by actors of many different races and nationalities.

The great Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa did film versions of the Shakespeare plays, "MacBeth" called "Throne of Blood" and "King Lear" called "Ran" or "Chaos."


East meets West. African-Americans speak lines written by a Frenchman, directed by an Englishman.

The thought was profoundly moving to me. This was the main reason that I embarked upon my works about the Mongol Empire. The story of Chinggis Khan and his descendants was about power and rule, and family. I see Chinggis Khan as "Henry V" and I see Khubilai Khan, who reigned in glory and then descended into gluttony, obesity, alcoholism and depression, his dreams of Universal Rule in tatters, as King Lear.

In this holiday season, in these times of ethnic divisions, perhaps we would do well to remember the vision of these great artists who believe that it is not a fool's errand to seek common ground.