Shakespeare in Bollywood


Shakespeare in Bollywood

Movies are a complete genre of art as they depict life as it is for the audience to see and listen to. Mostly, Bollywood movies are based on novels and dramas that are already written and are so beautifully presented that they never fail to excite the audience. Some directors in India have even gone forward to direct enactments of Shakespearean plays. Vishal Bhardwaj is an important name in this regard who has directed films like Haider, Maqbool and Omkara. Haider is based on Hamlet, Maqbool, on Macbeth while Omkara follows the line of Othello. These films contain different dialects of language and songs that complement the respective scenarios.


The stories in these films are, no doubt, different than those written originally in the corresponding plays. But the whole message conveyed in these films is the same. Omkara begins with the abduction of Dolly – counterpart of Desdemona in Othello – and moves forward following the exact line of Othello. In Maqbool, the prediction of Maqbool’s rise to power is given by two police officers instead of the witches in Macbeth. Haider however takes a very different turn.

Firstly, there is no set analogy between the Haider and Hamlet as the former is a son of a doctor who had allegedly helped separatists while the latter was the Prince of Denmark whose uncle was involved directly in the regicide of his brother. The film is set in the valley of Kashmir and is a very beautiful and innovative description of how Hamlet met the tragedy he met. However, Haider does not die; on several occasions in the film, it digresses from the original work but is, nonetheless a very beautiful blend of originality and innovation. The ghost of Hamlet’s father is missing from the film while that role is played by a character named Roohdar who basically moves Haider to kill his uncle, Khurram. Furthermore, Hamlet returns home to find his mother singing and dancing with his uncle and not exactly married to him. Arshia, the counterpart of Ophelia, doesn’t have to undergo the trauma as Ophelia was made to. She commits suicide only in her awe and sadness pertaining to her father’s murder at Haider’s hands. While Haider doesn’t even know if his father is alive or dead, he meets Roohdar through Arshia who tells him that he met his father in a detention cell and found out that he attributed his arrest to Khurram, Haider’s uncle.

A literature student from India and Pakistan, studying Hamlet for academic reasons cannot be as benefitted by Haider as the same student would do by watching Othello for the same reason. But from a more aesthetic point of view, the film and its video songs are worth watching and is truly an asset for the Indian film industry. It is a clear proof of the fact that there is a true literary spirit present in Indian film industry which is a definite harbinger of prosperity for this industry. These films are a whole class apart from the other films which deal with clichéd stories of love and revenge and therefore, more of such films should be made. For this purpose, not only Shakespeare’s plays should be concentrated upon but also classic stories such as The Return of the Native, A Tale of Two Cities, Adam Bede, David Copperfield, Sense and Sensibility etc should be considered. This would serve as a tribute to legends of literature on one hand and would promote a literary taste in contemporary audience.