Shankar Shankaramurthi

I was sorry to see in 'Prospero' (the newsletter for BBC pensioners) that the BBC World Service Tamil producer Shankar Shankaramurthi has died at the age of 81. He was a splendid gentleman, cheerful, enthusiastic, committed to his work and unfailingly polite.

Among his productions were several Shakespeare adaptations, transmitted in episodes because their transmissions were fairly short. I worked on several of these, including Hamlet.

I didn't work on the episode with the fencing match: apparently his enthusiasm led him to insist on participating in the duel himself, using one of the foils (fencing swords) from the Sound Effects collection - he was waving it around like Errol Flynn. I have to say I wouldn't have allowed this - he had seriously impaired vision, and might easily have put someone's eye out: and you don't fence with sound effects swords, you point them downwards and bang them together (or on a metal music stand).

For some reason Shakespeare identifies the gravediggers as 1st and 2nd Clowns: an over-literal interpretation of this led him to get the actors to perform in a very exaggerated comic manner which apparently is the norm for comic characters in Indian drama but sounded rather out of place here. Most of it was convincingly done, however.

When we recorded the speech 'O what a rogue and peasant slave am I' I commented to the English producer handling the technical side that it seemed rather short: she said 'Yes, he's cut it'. I said 'I hope he didn't cut "To be or not to be"' - she said, 'No, he liked that one so much he expanded it'.