Tuesday 12 December 2017

Defending Cinephilia (4A) - Peter Hourigan sends in a postscript to his run through the movies of Shakespeare's HAMLET

Editor's Note: Peter's earlier piece on Hamlet on screen can be found if you click here.


How could I overlook one of the most recent versions of Hamlet, and one of the most exuberant? Vishal Bhardwaj is a director very much in the tradition of Hindi cinema, but who’s made versions of at least three works of Shakespeare, - Maqbool (Macbeth 2003), Omkara (Othello 2006) and Haider (Hamlet 2014.)  

In the case of Haider, things are rotten in the state of Kashmir. That ongoing conflict is the setting for this adaptation of Hamlet.  Bhardwaj largely ticks off all the iconic moments from the play, but also from within the traditions of Bollywood.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Salman 1 and Salman 2, and they run a video store, where they love watching the tapes – cue in a small dance number.  There’s also “alas poor Yorick” and “To be or not to be” – but not as pastiche quotes, but part of the drama at that point.

Then there is the wonderful Mousetrap moment. The film has bristled with the tension of Kashmir, terrorist bombings and assassinations. But Haider has organised a performance to see if it will bring out the guilt in his uncle.  This is a full-scale Bollywood production number, in this case, Haider himself takes part as the principal performer. And Shahid Kapoor is a marvellously charismatic singer and dancer.  His song proclaims the poisonous situation – and unmistakenly hits home at the consciences of his uncle and his mother.

Shahid Kapoor, Haider
The setting is spectacular – outdoors, in a valley with the snow capped Kashmiri mountains behind.  It’s definitively Bollywood at its most flamboyant, but it’s also true to Shakespeare. There’s really not a gratuitous moment in the number, and it’s such an integral part of the whole drama. It’s also a strong political film, confronting the sensitive issue of Kashmir in a way rare in India.

So, here we have yet another example of how Shakespeare really is universal, and of meaning and value to so many cultures around the world.

1 comment:

  1. Well, while we're dredging up Hamlets there's Jimmy Lyndon in Edgar Ulmer's cheesy 1945 STRANGE ILLUSION.


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