Watch Shakespeare Wallah
- 2 hr 2 min
In 1965, the renowned filmmaker James Ivory directed the film Shakespeare Wallah, which starred Shashi Kapoor, Felicity Kendal, and Geoffrey Kendal in lead roles. The movie was quite popular among critics and the general audience, who praised its exploration of cultural differences, the bittersweet romance between the leads, and the wonderful performances of its cast.
Shakespeare Wallah is a film that tells the story of a travelling theatre group from England, the Kendals, who have been travelling around India for years performing Shakespeare plays. The play is based on the English classic, Romeo and Juliet, and their performance is the focal point of the film. The group includes Felicity Kendal and her parents, Geoffrey and Laura. They are a family of actors who have dedicated their lives to bringing the works of Shakespeare to the people of India.
The story begins with the Kendals arriving in a small Indian town for their next performance. It is clear from the start that things are not as they used to be. The group is struggling to find audiences, and the characters themselves are beginning to doubt the value of their work, believing that Shakespeare has become old-fashioned and outdated in modern India. They seem confined, both by their own limited perspective and the country's rapidly changing culture.
The lead actor, Sanju (Shashi Kapoor), is a wealthy playboy who is hired to help the Kendals with their performances. He soon discovers a well-hidden talent for acting and quickly becomes passionate about the theatre group and the girl who plays Juliet, his distant and reluctant co-star, Lizzie. The two fall in love but are unsure of how to bridge their cultural differences, as well as their differences in class and expectations.
Throughout the movie, viewers follow the theatre group as they travel across India, performing Shakespeare's plays in increasingly remote and unimportant towns. It is in these performances that Ivoryâs skillful direction and scriptwriting shine. We see the contrast between the classical works of Western literature and the ordinary people of India who do not understand or appreciate them. But even in this seeming uninterested audience, Ivory still gives the Walt Whitman belief that "the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."
The film is full of striking imagery, and the rich use of color underscores the sensual aspect of India that captivates Lizzie and Sanju. The shimmering greens, yellows, and blues of the Indian countryside are breathtaking, and the rustic brown tones of the Kendals' caravan help to create a period-specific atmosphere, adding to the movie's timelessness.
The performances of the actors are, without a doubt, the film's highlight. Felicity Kendal is particularly excellent as Lizzie, the antsy, restless girl who is both attracted and repelled by the world that the theatre company presents to her. She mingles with the locals who have become more interested in the arrival of a movie star instead of the group's classical plays. Her character is saddled with the familial responsibilities of a decaying theatre company, while struggling with her growing attraction to Sanju, who represents everything she wants to escape to.
Shashi Kapoor delivers an equally amazing performance as Sanju. Kapoor captures the eccentricities of a young, entitled, yet sensitive and talented movie star who falls in love and transcends the boundaries of class, language, and society.
The movie's final act is a stunning exploration of these themes, carefully crafted by Ivory. Shakespeare Wallah is a masterpiece of film making and storytelling, offering viewers a glimpse into the lives of the travelling players and the beauty and exoticism of a time in India that continues to fascinate viewers even to this day. Its melancholy and romantic tone are unforgettable, and it is a film that continues to resonate emotionally across generations of film enthusiasts.
Shakespeare Wallah is a 1965 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 2 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8.