The classic 1965 drama from the renowned filmmaking team behind Howards End, The Remains of the Day, and A Room With a View has received a “gorgeous” 2K digital restoration (The Village Voice).
One of the first Merchant Ivory productions, the sumptuous Shakespeare Wallah established the tone for so many of the collaborations to come from producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory: the deft, multilayered screenplay by their frequent collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, luminous cinematography, a wry sense of humor and a cast of characters rich in their very human complexity.
The true story of British actor-manager Geoffrey Kendal and his family of traveling theatrical players is used as a fascinating lens into the ever-evolving relationship between Great Britain and India. Shakespeare Wallah follows Tony Buckingham (Geoffrey Kendal) and his wife, Carla (Laura Liddell), as the actor-managers of a troupe who travel through 1960s post-colonial India staging Shakespeare’s plays. But the Buckinghams come to realize to their dismay that classic English theater is falling out of favor in a changing country where the public has become more excited by the explosion of vibrant Bollywood films – and, more deeply, is looking to move beyond everything British. Meanwhile, the Buckinghams’ daughter Lizzie (future Britcom favorite Felicity Kendal) becomes involved in a love triangle that would fit perfectly in both a Shakespeare drama and a Bollywood musical.
With music by the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray and memorable performances by cinema icons Shashi Kapoor and Madhur Jaffrey (who won the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the 1965 Berlin International Film Festival), Shakespeare Wallah remains a one-of-kind gem of modern world cinema. And more than 50 years later, its director, James Ivory, has received his first Academy Award – as screenwriter of the acclaimed 2017 romantic drama Call Me by Your Name.
The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, in his 1966 review of Shakespeare Wallah, called it “very delicate and lovely.” He said, ” ‘Wallah,’ incidentally, means expert or craftsman. The taste and perseverance of Mr. Merchant and Mr. Ivory certainly entitle them to this distinction.” Don Druker of the Chicago Reader said, “Ivory is particularly acute in catching the peculiar matrix of moods and emotions that hold the troupe together and which keep the British and the Indians from ever really understanding each other.”
Shakespeare Wallah Blu-Ray-$30.99
Shakespeare Wallah DVD-$25.99