One of the reasons for the persistent allure of Shakespeare’s works is obviously the depth as well as the range of human behaviour these capture. One can easily relate to such elements as greed, power, jealousy, suspicion, love and lust which form the undercurrent of all his characters.
These are precisely the ingredients which producers, directors and script writers in Bollywood bank upon to whip up larger than life narratives, keeping the viewers enamoured and enthralled.
If a movie is said to be either ‘inspired by’ or ‘adopted from’ a literary classic, the intellectual coves are left more than satisfied. The critics could anyway pan the movie for its digressions from the original, but the common man is quite happy to have connected with a classic which he might otherwise never have the time, inclination or capacity of devouring in his saner moments.
A dash of spicy item numbers further adds to the mass appeal of such a movie. The ‘Masala Quotient’ for the front benchers also improves drastically.
It comes therefore as no surprise that Bollywood can boast of a number of screen adaptations of the Bard’s works. Here are a few which readily spring to one’s mind.
The Comedy of Errors
The tale of two sets of twins has invariably left the audience in splits.
If ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ had the Kishore Kumar-Asit Sen duo, ‘Angoor’ had Sanjeev Kumar- Deven Verma, ably assisted by Moushumi Chatterjee, Deepti Naval and Aruna Irani. Both are ageless comedies. (A still from the movie ‘Do Dooni Chaar, Year: 1968, Director: Debu Sen)
When the cancer of distrust and suspicion spreads, disaster looms ahead.
If ‘Hamraaz’ had a stage performance based on the travails of Othello, ‘Omkara’ brought home the anguish of the hero in a poignant manner.
(1967, B R Chopra)
(2006, Vishal Bhardwaj)
Romeo and Juliet
The tale of star-crossed lovers has been used by Bollywood in a number of its offerings. ‘Do Badan’, ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’, ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’, ‘Goliyon Ki Leela – Raas Leela’ and ‘Ishaqzaade’ can be said to be based on the Bard’s eternal love classic.
(1966, Raj Khosla)
(1988, Mansoor Khan)
(1981, K Balachander)
(2012, Habib Faisal)
(2013, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)
In tune with the changing times, the last two were rather graphic in their depiction of the heat of desire, an aberration which only made them stray even farther from the original theme.
‘Maqbool’ had finely etched performances by the likes of Tabu, Pankaj Kapur and Irrfan Khan. A dark offering against the backdrop of a Mafia gang, it left the viewer struck with its audacity and the departures from the original work.
(2003, Vishal Bhardwaj)
‘Haider’ had all the elements of the original – intrigue, ambition, retribution and an amorous love affair to boot.
(2014, Vishal Bhardwaj)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
’10 ml Love’ came enchantingly close to the original, but did not have the depth of the original.
(2010, Sharat Katariya)
Most of these movies had the necessary ingredients for commercial success – exotic locales, lavish sets and costumes, outlandish exaggeration and intense passion. Opposites co-existed in many of these movies. Comedy often walked hand in hand with tragedy, poetic language got intermeshed with coarse slang, and middle class morality and values were juxtaposed with unabashed display of physical desire.
A timeless appeal
It would be too simplistic to say that the poet is merely a vestige of India’s colonial past. Much like Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, P G Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and many others, the multi-layered characters etched out by him touch a chord somewhere deep within the psyche of Indian movie buffs of all hues, sizes and shapes.
It is this mass appeal which makes the Bard a source of inspiration for many a scriptwriter in Bollywood. His works depict the essential traits of human beings and shall forever continue to regale movie goers all over the world.
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