Celebrating Shakespeare’s plays, Bollywood style

2015-05-21 10:09

FILMMAKER Vishal Bhardwaj, probably Bollywood’s greatest fan of William Shakespeare’s works, has a vision to bring together actors from India and the United Kingdom in celebration of the writer’s plays.

Having already done a trilogy of Bollywood films adapted from Shakespeare’s plays, Bhardwaj now wants to tackle a co-operative venture in a similar vein.

The film is expected to be released in 2016 as part of Shakespeare 400, a year-long programme marking four centuries since the death of the bard.

Bhardwaj teamed up with fellow filmmakers Ritesh Batra, Rohit Khattar and Vikas Bahl to announce the collaboration of Cinestaan Film Company and Film London in the joint venture.

The three leading filmmakers from Bollywood will act as mentors for writers, producers and directors from both countries to sharpen their skills with an intensive training programme.

A selection process has already been started to choose five teams who will attend the famed Microschool in the UK to vie for the final project.

Khattar said his Cinestaan Film Company will invest up to R5 million as they join Film London and the British Council in developing the one film that will be screened in theatres next year.

Bhardwaj started his tryst with Shakespeare with his highly acclaimed film Maqbool, based on Macbeth, in 2003, starring some of the biggest actors of what had by then become known as parallel Indian cinema — movies with great artistic merit but not much chance of huge takings at the box office.

The film prompted one of the actors in it, Naseeruddin Shah, to say: “The roots may look lost, but every big story in the Hindi film industry is from Shakespeare.”

The director’s next movie in 2006 was Omkara, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, winning acclaim again especially for lead actors Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma and Saif Ali Khan.

The final chapter in Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean trilogy was last year’s multiple award-winning film Haider, based on Hamlet, with Shahid Kapoor winning huge plaudits for his interpretation of the Danish prince surrounded by tragedy.

Although Bhardwaj has concentrated on the darker side of Shakespeare’s work, there have been those who have been inspired by other less serious plays such as the Comedy of Errors, the theme of which was followed through in the 1968 movie Do Dooni Chaar and Angoor in 1982.

There have also been Bengali, Kannada, Tulu and Punjabi language films using this theme.

Adaptations of Romeo and Juliet have been the most popular in Bollywood though, probably because of its theme of young lovers caught up in a family feud. Some of these films helped launch amazing careers for actors, as it did with Bobby for Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in 1973; for Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla in 1988 with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak; and for Manisha Koirala and Vivek Mushran in their 1991 film Saudagar (1991).

Others were Kamlahaasan with Rati Agnihotri in Ek Duuje Ke Liye in 1981 and with Reena Roy in Sanam Teri Kasam a year later. More recent ones have been Ishaqzaade in 2012 starring Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor and Ram-Leela in 2013 starring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh

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