captaion: Vishal Bhardwaj is intensely influenced by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare as evinced by his trilogy of films – Maqbool’ (2003), ‘Omkara’ (2006) and ‘Haider’ (2014), which were based on the Bard’s ‘Hamlet’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Othello’, respectively
BY RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
Film buffs will rarely find a filmmaker so intensely influenced by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare as Vishal Bhardwaj has been. Bhardwaj, who began his career as a composer of film music with Gulzar’s ‘Maachis’, recently released his directorial venture ‘Haider’, a movie that completed his trilogy of Shakespearean adaptations; the other two films being ‘Maqbool’ (2003) and ‘Omkara’ (2006). The three films were based on the Bard’s ‘Hamlet’, ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Othello’, respectively.
“The works of Shakespeare are timeless and adapted to circumstantial incidents”, Bhardwaj said while speaking on his Shakespearean influences during the Knowledge Series held at the ongoing Film Bazaar organised by the National Films Development Corporation (NFDC), on the sidelines of the International Film Festival of India 2014.
Participating in an interaction on the topic ‘Shakespeare 2016 on Screen’, Bhardwaj said that Shakespeare’s plays are human stories that present basic human conflicts with lots of human emotions. “I love to contemporise his works, while finding a parallel to my own world, my own life”, the music director-turned-filmmaker added, pointing out, “In fact, the first film that played on my sub-consciousness was Gulzar’s ‘Angoor’, which was based on the play ‘Comedy of Errors’ by Shakespeare.” He also fondly recalled the last scene from ‘Angoor’ wherein the portrait of the Bard winks.
“In school, students hate Shakespeare, what with the classical English that includes words like thou, thee, thy. But I, fortunately, got to know him when I had matured enough to understand his literature”, Bhardwaj informed, stating that, “Even though my three films were adaptations of Shakespearean plays, Gulzarsaab said that they are like originals, and that I had just exploited the Bard’s name.”
“Actually, I can live my entire life just producing films based on Shakespeare’s plays”, Bhardwaj said, revealing that he was tempted to direct the screen adaptation of ‘King Lear’, but finally chose ‘Hamlet’ instead. “I still have the plot for ‘King Lear’ in mind”, he maintained, noting that now, in its place, he would love to do three Shakespearean comedies instead.
Speaking further, Bhardwaj said that as a music composer he appreciates the songs in Shakespearean plays. “There are songs in his plays, including the drinking song sung by Iago in ‘Othello’, and they support the situations well”, he mentioned, observing that Shakespeare’s plays, however, cannot be termed musicals.
It is interesting to note that Bhardwaj, for his film ‘Haider’, had conceptualised a scene that sees gravediggers singing a song just like in the play ‘Hamlet’, on which the film is based.
Stating that he would now direct adaptations of Shakespearean comedies, the music composer-turned-filmmaker added that he would direct these comedies with all seriousness.
Discussing ‘Haider’ Bhardwaj said that when a filmmaker considers a script, he always has various options before him. “Even though I made ‘Haider’ with terrorism in Kashmir as the backdrop, the initial script had espionage as the backdrop”, he said, informing that he finally dropped the idea and decided to go back to terrorism, a topic earlier tackled in ‘Maachis’ for which he had composed the music.
Bhardwaj maintained that whenever he adapts a Shakespearean play he keeps in mind how it would appeal to him. “And then during the process of adaptation of Shakespearean plays I have to keep a number of things in mind, say for example the skull and the ghost of the father while making ‘Haider’, so that they related to the original”, he said, concluding with saying that during the exercise of adaptation he always remains honest to the original source.
The Shakespeare Initiative
The ‘Film London Microwave International: Shakespeare India’ initiative was launched at the Film Bazaar organised by the National Film Development Corporation.
Writers, directors and producers from the UK and India will, under this initiative, participate in a week-long training program titled Microschool, in Mumbai, funded by the British Council, during which five productions based on the works of William Shakespeare will be developed.
With Indian and UK production finance, one film making team will be awarded £500,000 ($783,000) to produce a feature film for worldwide release. The feature film will be a part of ‘Shakespeare 400 on Screen’, the 2016 program marking 400 years since the bard’s death in 1616.
Vishal Bhardwaj best known for his Shakespeare trilogy will be a part of this initiative.
Memories of ‘Angoor’
Celebrated filmmaker, Gulzar, who made ‘Angoor’ based on the Shakespearean comedy, ‘Comedy of Errors’, in 1982, said that the script of the film was exactly like the one he had written for the 1968 film, ‘Do Dooni Char’, produced under the banner of Bimal Roy Productions.
“Of course, I polished it while making ‘Angoor’, fourteen years later”, Gulzar told NT BUZZ, “And the script was updated in consonance with the gaps in the original script created by the time between the two films.”
‘Angoor’ had Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma playing the dual roles of two sets of twin brothers, which were earlier enacted in ‘Do Dooni Char’ by Kishor Kumar and Asit Sen.
Sharing his memories, Gulzar said that ‘Do Dooni Char’ could not be produced as desired since Bimal Roy was on his death bed when the film went on floors. “It had some handicaps, and director Debu Sen, for whom I had written the script, could not do things as we had desired”, he maintained.
However, I had confidence in the script and I proved that confidence with ‘Angoor’, the lyricist-writer-director concluded.