Shakespeare in Bollywood

Every school kid has read his name with dread. These days, what is the relevance of a long-dead English poet and playwright? A bunch of stuffy lines said on stage by pouncy (read: stuck-up) actors. Nearly all of us have cursed the fact that we have had to memorise line upon line of mindless gibberish. But is it really gibberish? Have you stopped and thought about the magic that Shakespeare created? He created whole new words that have been adapted into the English language. Through his work, we have had some really cool ideas about tragedies, comedies and poetry. Bollywood and Hollywood and scores of theatre groups have him to thank for making them look good. 
Oh yeah, like the song says: Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now. Brush up your Shakespeare, and the women you will wow.

The world has to give much thanks to Ol’ Bill. But the main complaint from the masses has been: “How do we understand old English?” Easy, watch a play. Or catch a film. Trust me, once you see these plays performed live or on screen, you will regard his work in a different light. With everything around us going wrong these days, escaping in to a world of fantasy and tragic star-crossed lovers is what we need. So here are a few examples of adaptations of Shakespeare’s work:

1) Maqbool:

This film is based on Macbeth. Before you say it out loud, wait. The name is cursed. You have to call it the Scottish play if you need to talk about it. This tradition has been carried on for years now. Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, Maqbool tells the tale of a gangster whose dreams of ambition and power ultimately destroy him. Set in Mumbai with the seedy underworld as the backdrop, we are thrown into a world of crime, passions, lust, deceit and murder. Odd huh? Shakespeare wrote this in 16th century. All those elements are still relevant today. Watch this film and revel in the roles of Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Pankaj Kapur. Maqbool is a tragedy, so don’t expect roses and happy endings. It is a brilliant movie where people die, thus reflecting the horrors of life itself. 

2) Omkara: 

Vishal Bhardwaj made this film based on Othello. This play isn’t driven by power, but it is driven by rage, jealousy, lust, manipulation and hatred. We get to see a thug, Omkara, played by Ajay Devgn, pushed to the limits of madness. The best role of the entire film, however, is the one played by Saif Ali Khan. He portrays Langda. His villainy and scheming makes the whole movie come alive. The play and the film is named after Othello, but the hand pulling the strings belong to Iago. This is one of those films where a character goes from the heights of power to the depths of despair. Another facet of life is showcased by this wonderful film.

3) Haider:

To be or not to be… One of Shakespeare’s most well known soliloquies. This line is uttered in Hamlet. It forms a part of a unique speech. Said out loud, it describes Hamlet’s state of mind. This play has been turned into Haider, a film set in Kashmir. Shahid Kapoor makes an impressive impact as Haider. The movie revolves around his return to his home. Here, the primary focus is vengeance and the madness it begets. How can Hamlet or Haider can be best described? It can’t, it must be experienced. Enter the world of politics, dark humor, murder, death and madness. So yeah, Shakespeare isn’t boring anymore, huh? 

These are just a few of the adaptations we love! There are countless more. In the grand scheme of things, the whole world is a stage and we all must play a part (guess that play). Intrigued? Watch Shylock at the Going Solo festival and be amazed at the depiction of this wonderfully human character. Just click here to book your tickets!

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