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Shakespeare on celluloid

Evidently, the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon has left such a scintillating oeuvre of high drama to be reinvented in different forms and mediums, fueling creative experiments across genres. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, which reinterprets Hamlet and sets it along the backdrop of Kashmir militancy, definitely completes the big trilogy after Maqbool (based on Macbeth) and Omkara (his take on Othello).

It’s a marvel how the four-century-old Elizabethan English play still lends to cutting-edge theatre and cinema, as the crème de la crème of the acting circuit, till date, consider the Hamletian soliloquies the acid test of good acting. Careers on stage and onscreen have been made as actors, including Oliver from the old guard, begged, borrowed and stole to bag the coveted role.

English theatre now boasts of actors like David Tenant, Ben Wishaw and Benedict Cumberbatch who have given splendid onstage renditions of Hamlet, effectively paving the way for their later stints in films.

Of the other plays, Romeo and Juliet has inspired several Hollywood versions, including famously the Baz Luhrmann experiment starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the adolescent, hormonal Romeo.    

Luhrmann used the exact lines from the play, all naked in their Bardic rawness, and fused them with a highly stylised visual replete with the fusion punk of the late nineties America. Romeo + Juliet had spectacular gore and high-voltage violence to shock the viewers as the characters spewed Shakespearean lines while knocking and stabbing each other dead.

Among the comedies, Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It have been frequently turned to.

In fact, Comedy of Errors has had brilliant adaptations in Hindi and Bengali. Bhranti Bilaash, which was Vidyasagar’s adaptation of the play, had Uttam Kumar essaying the role of the twin Antipholus brothers and Bhanu Bandopadhyay playing the two Dromios!  

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Angshukanta Chakraborty

Angshukanta Chakraborty

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