Shakespeare through the lens of Vishal Bhardwaj


The Shakespearean plays written in the 15th century have not yet lost relevance and continue to enthrall the audience through crisp narration and strong characters. The audience enjoys decoding the ‘desi’ interpretation of the Shakespearean plays, and Vishal Bhardwaj certainly gives the viewers the perfect appealing twirls.
Vibrant with characteristic vigour and technical artistry, Bhardwaj’s sumptuous film-adaptations capture the essence of the Bard’s plays beautifully. A lot goes on in the dense scripts, and through voiceovers and occasionally confusing scenes, we’re provided a viewpoint which not only helps to interpret his films’ open ending, but also nicely sums up their unique premise. Check-out the movies which show the genius of film-making in the list.


An incredibly nuanced adapation of Macbeth, and it’s interestingly done; a cinematic gem and an outstanding conceptualization and execution. Despite the crisp pacing, the film’s plot will likely be a slog for anyone unfamiliar with the most controversial questions that Hindus and Muslims ask even today in India and elsewhere. From Maqbool’s love and lust for his lady to his over-vaulting ambition dominating his conscience, has been shown with tender and ease. Skillfully combining the key tools of cinema – pictures, sound, and music – Bharwaj delivers a transcendent experience that’s hard to describe in words.  The queen, the witches and the swords are replaced by adulterous mistresses, corrupt cops and flying bullets respectively. Perhaps, the best ‘character translation’ of the play was morphing the three witches that haunt Macbeth into the two corrupt cops, as played by the brilliant-to-a-fault Naseeruddin Shah & Om Puri. Their incult humour in every scene constantly reminds us of the dark side of the tale. Pankaj Kapoor, Tabu and Irrfan Khan are magnificent in their roles and their performances add to the content of their extraordinary repertoire. The screenplay by Bhardwaj and Abbas Tyrewala weaves your mind with some invigorating scenes. Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography gives us skillfully composed sequences. Shifting seamlessly from feisty to fragile to bitter, the film delivers a deep subtext, an underlying psychology and emotion and the audience just sits back and gasps in admiration. Charismatic to the core! Magnificent!


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It could have been very easy for anyone to go awry with such a radiant cast line but Vishal not only develops the individual characters skillfully but also creates the magic by throwing in some bizarre scenes; and the choppy editing shows an earthy cocktail of really interesting power games, bedroom politics, and emotion intrigue. Vishal Bharadwaj has done the unthinkable, like a druid and he has imbibed the soul of the quixotic ‘Othello: The Moor of Venice’ into the heartland of rural India. Bhardwaj conveys this tantalizing Shakespearean tale with a slight sympathetic tinge, without compromising one bit on the vile and evil core that leaves the viewers pondering their stand on morality and redemption. The film is consistently engaging because of the perfect setting, plot and a relentlessly dark atmosphere. The cast as a whole give strong performances. They match with the deep insight into their characters which are insidious, canny and deeply flawed. The brilliance of Saif Ali Khan’s acting draws attention in his role as the cruel crafty ruthless Langda Tyagi. Technically, the film is top-notch. Tassaduq Hussain’s brilliantly non-intrusive cinematography captures the mood of the film with some breathtaking visuals. Omkara is a vibrant and original reworking of Othello in Modern India which signals the advancement of mainstream Indian Cinema. This movie can stand toe to toe with the best of Western cinema and come out at par if not ahead. Compared to recent ‘mass entertainers’ that tend to lazily sacrifice story and plot for retro-style action and star appeal, this adaptation rolls along like a well-oiled machine. Excellent…Intense!


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No doubt, Vishal has a robust hold over what he is doing. A story-line on Hamlet, premised in Kashmir, the paradise of sins and bathos of blood, Haider is an unflinching take on the Kashmir malaise, a tragedy infused with a sense of dark humor about the ordinary Kashmiri’s hopelessness. Bhardwaj chooses bold strokes over gloomy introspection, and in that sense, Haider is in the tradition of mainstream Hindi cinema. The film takes off with the event around which the actions of all the players of the movie would revolve. At the cusp of the interval when an ever assured Irrfan Khan makes an intriguing entry, you only get a hint of things to come. Laced with dark humor Haider is a 161 minute long engaging drama. The casting ideas work impressively well. Kay Kay Menon stands out as a superbly calculating man, the villain in Haider’s mind, and Tabu makes a heart-rending Ghazala. The unforgettable presence of Tabu overshadows everything, except perhaps Shahid Kapoor’s dramatic monologue with the noose around his neck. Shahid Kapoor comes into his own in this movie and it is probably his best one so far. The script really takes off to a different plane here. The energy Shahid exudes in the second half is par excellence.  The cinematography befits a large screen viewing. The beauty of the movie is its unpredictable climax which develops out of a prolonged suspense. Shakespearean purism aside, Haider is a thrilling film. It is a film of luxuriant paranoia. It is about Oedipal love. It is a relevant cinema, a good piece of art. Deeply concentrated…Outstanding!


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The films are like paintings viewed from the road inside an art gallery – distant yet vivid, unforgettable, lifelike, and yet exquisitely layered. They scream silently to be recognized as a wondrous work of art. Bhardwaj’s film-making is a beast that just won’t be tamed by regular cinematic definitions. Maqbool, Omkara and Haider stand as torchbearers for nonconformist cinema; and these films shouldn’t just be shelved as masterpieces. “The Bard of Avon” must also be in awe of the sheer genius that went into the adaptation of his literary work..

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1 Response

  1. Kinkinee Kinkinee says:

    A post from you after a very long time..
    Loved the post btw

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