Thursday, December 4, 2008

Post-Colonial Shakespeare—Very Dull Version

Shakespeare Wallah. Dir. James Ivory. Perf. Shashi Kapoor and Felicity Kendal. 1965. DVD. Merchant Ivory, 2004.

I apologize for this post, and I will back up my apology with a considerably-more-exciting post in just a few minutes.

One of the dullest Shakespeare-related films out there (and I'll admit that there are many) is an early Merchant / Ivory production (N.B.:  It's an Early, early Merchant / Ivory production) called Shakespeare Wallah.  

Perhaps I'm bitter about it because it really has such promise!  The plot revolves around a troupe of actors who preform Shakespeare around post-colonial India.  That idea is exciting and intriguing and fraught with interest!  Wow!

But this film is dull, dull, dull.  This is especially true if you compare it to Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale (for which, q.v.), which is much more exciting and interesting in every way!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I don't have 1% of the Shakespeare knowledge that you do, and I'm sure I approached this movie from a very different place, but I simply adored it! Of course, it's much more about the Shakespeare wallahs themselves (the doers, the sellers), as people and their relationships, than it is about their business of theater or the stories they tell and issues they address through theater.

You might find Felicity Kendal's autobiography, White Cargo, more to your liking - she does talk much more about the theater troupe's travels, the communities they performed in, etc. I believe her father wrote a book about the troupe too, didn't he?

Beth Loves Bollywood

kj said...

I suppose I'll have to give it another try. Sigh.

I will say this for it: the screenplay is by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. And she writes really well.

But for Shakespeare in an interesing Bollywood setting, I much prefer the 2002 film Bollywood / Hollywood, which features a grandmother who quotes Shakespeare at apropos moments throughout the film.

Perhaps Shakespeare Wallah was just too deep for me.

Thanks for the comment! I'll see if another viewing changes anything about it. I don't think the percentage of Shakespeare knowledge should really enter into it too much!


Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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