As thespian Naseeruddin Shah rightly puts, “The roots may look lost, but every big story in the Hindi Film Industry is from Shakespeare.”
The popularity of Shakespeare in India might have been from the cultural influences of the British Raj, however, the continued legacy cannot be credited to that of the Raj alone.
Shakespeare’s dramas have a universality about them. The ability to bring out the dark side of the human conscience in its true essence is definitely one of the attributes which make the Bard a literary genius.
To say that Shakespeare truly understood the human psyche would not be an overstatement as even after 400 hundred years of his demise, he is still widely reinterpreted and celebrated.
In India, his dramas have been adapted in almost every regional performing art, from Nautanki of the north to Kathakali of the south to Jatras of the east and Bhangwadi of the west.
But why, one may wonder?
The answer lies in a single word loved by Indians – masala.
Shakespeare might be taught differently (and in a very boring way) in most Indian schools. My high school English teacher will just go berserk after reading this.
In my defence, I’d like to take a recourse to Jonathan Gill’s and Jonathan Harris’ 2018 book Masala Shakespeare: How a Firangi Writer Became Indian in which they point that Shakespeare’s work was initially conceived for the masses.
In a time when English was not a standardised language, he kept every sect of his audience into consideration and catered to each one of them by intermixing languages and dialects prevalent during those eras. In other words, making a khichdi.
Just like Shakespeare, the Parsi Theatre, which later morphed into the Hindi film industry, had a diverse audience, ranging from different castes, class, regions and religions. To cater to each one of them, it was essential to make a khichdi of dialects and languages.
Due to this polyglot nature, Shakespeare became the number one source of the Parsi Theatre. Shakespeare, in a way, holds up a mirror to the idea of India, which celebrates plurality and bonds over masala.
It is commonly joked around that if Shakespeare were alive, he’d be writing for Bollywood! Countless films have taken inspiration from his work.
Presenting to you seven Bollywood adaptations of Shakespeare’s work.
Do you also think that if alive, Shakespeare would have been the best screenwriter in the Hindi film industry?
Let us know your views in the comments section!
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This post is tagged under: William Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare Dramas, Book Adaptations, Film adaptations of books, The Comedy Of Errors, A Midnight Summer’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Mabeth, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, Angoor, 10 ml Love, Bobby, Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ramleela, Ramleela, Maqbool, Omkara, Haider, Vishal Bharadwaj, Vishal Bhardawaj, Gulzar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali