Legendary English poet and writer William Shakespeare is finally getting due credit as the inspiration of many Hindi films after decades of no recognition and blatant plagiarism.
The world famous literary works of the Bard of Avon have for decades inspired Bollywood films but no one credited Shakespeare. In the bid to find a foothold in global cinema, however, avant grade filmmakers are now going to town declaring their films as inspired by his creations.
Adapting Shakespeareâ€™s work to Indian ethos is the latest â€˜inâ€™ thing. After critical acclaim for the â€˜Macbethâ€™-inspired â€˜Maqboolâ€™, director Vishal Bharadwaj is ready with â€˜Omkaraâ€™ - based on â€˜Othelloâ€™ with the badlands of Uttar Pradesh as background.
Bollywood-style â€˜Hamletâ€™ and â€˜A Midsummerâ€™s Night Dreamâ€™ are also in the offing. Reports say that in keeping with the other â€˜hotâ€™ trend of making sequels, Vishal is keen on yet another Shakespeare-inspired film to complete his trilogy.
Vishal is quoted as saying: â€˜Shakespeare is the greatest storyteller ever. His stories have layers of spectacular human drama. I think they can be adapted anywhere and in any language. I can live my whole life on Shakespeare.â€™
A tale of tragic love, â€˜Omkaraâ€™ is an Indian adaptation of the 17th century classic â€˜Othelloâ€™ and stars big Bollywood names like Naseeruddin Shah, Ajay Devgan and Kareena Kapoor among others.
National Award winner Ajay Devgan plays the lead role in â€˜Omkaraâ€™, of a short-tempered lover, whose jealousy destroys his happiness and love. Though Devgan plays the role of an outlaw chief, â€˜Omkaraâ€™ is not an action movie, but rather dwells on the complexity of human relationships.
A national contest was held to decide on the name of the film as the actors felt the film was not centered on one character only. Other names under consideration were â€˜Isssakâ€™, colloquial term for love, and â€˜O Saathi Reâ€™.
â€˜We are showing him as the conqueror, as the tormented lover, in various phases and moods, that is what we are showing,â€™ said Astha Debo, the choreographer of â€˜Omkaraâ€™.
Vishal is not the first to adapt Shakespeare. The prolific writer has been adapted earlier to Bollywood productions. Some Bollywood blockbusters, including â€˜Qayamat Se Qayamat Takâ€™, were said to be inspired by â€˜Romeo and Julietâ€™. Likewise, Gulzarâ€™s acclaimed â€˜Angoorâ€™ was based on â€˜The Comedy of Errorsâ€™.
Some believe even Andrew Lloyd Webberâ€™s staggering tribute to Bollywood in â€˜Bombay Dreamsâ€™ had a strikingly similar story line to the â€˜Montague-Capuletâ€™ saga.
As Naseeruddin Shah, who has done Shakespeare on stage many times and has starred in both â€˜Maqboolâ€™ and â€˜Omkaraâ€™, said in an interview: â€˜The roots may look lost but every big story in the Hindi film industry is from Shakespeare.â€™
The difference now is that the filmmakers are projecting the fact that they were inspired by Shakespeare as the unique selling proposition, going to show the changing taste of Hindi film viewers.
Saif Ali Khan, who plays the character of Iago in â€˜Omkaraâ€™, said in an interview: â€˜In at least 50 Bollywood films, the heroineâ€™s brother kills the hero and in at least 500 films, the hero and the heroine are star-crossed mates. It is ironic then that nobody has actually made a legitimate â€˜Romeo and Julietâ€™.â€™
The Khan is convinced Shakespeareâ€™s fables can be suitably â€˜Bollywoodisedâ€™. â€˜If you see, all his plays are completely targeted towards the front benchers. Thatâ€™s like a perfect fit for our film industry,â€™ he is quoted as saying.
Vishal is not the first filmmaker to have adapted and interpreted Shakespeare on more than one occasion. An analysis claims that what is striking with Shakespearean content the world over is that almost every director or actor who gets involved with one of his creations keeps going back to the Bard for more.
Hollywood filmmaker Laurence Olivier who was involved in a series of Shakespeare adaptations reached a stage when he could speak Shakespeareâ€™s lines as naturally as if he were actually thinking them. Orson Welles, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Burton and Al Pacino and even Japanese master Akira Kurosawa have a whole lot of Shakespeare in their repertoire.
Of course, thereâ€™s more to come. While Vidhu Vinod Chopraâ€™s â€˜Eklavyaâ€™ is rumoured to be an Indian period interpretation of â€˜Hamletâ€™, â€˜My Brotherâ€¦ Nikhilâ€™-maker Onir is actually adapting â€˜Hamletâ€™ for his next directorial venture. He plans to cast Hrithik Roshan in the title role. As Onir puts it, â€˜Shakespeareâ€™s plays explore the human psyche and thus are not time-bound. You can take the basic story and reinterpret it to your requirements.â€™