From Stage to Screen

Remembering Shakespeare on his 407th death anniversary this month, we’ve picked through the vast range of Indian and international adaptations that drew inspiration from the legendary playwright’s iconic works

By Farzana Patowari

Without discussing Shakespeare’s legacy, neither poetry nor theatre would be complete. His role in the entertainment industry remains pivotal over four centuries after his death, and has proved to be the foundation for many other forms of art developed long after the Elizabethan era. From Manu Sen’s Bhranti Bilas in 1963 to Rohit Shetty’s 2022 period-comedy Cirkus, his works have served as an inspiration to generations of filmmakers. Here’s a list of films and shows that draw upon Shakespeare’s iconic 37 plays and continue to prove his appeal across cultures, languages, and time itself:

OMKARA, 2005

Owing to its intense and hard-hitting content, this movie has risen in popularity over the years. Adapted by director Vishal Bhardwaj with all the desi tadka essential to impress an Indian audience, the filmmaker attempted to use the play’s original motifs of passion, jealousy and race to mirror modern India’s sociocultural conflicts, focusing on caste and the victimisation of women. Interestingly, while Othello’s women remain largely passive, Omkara’s female characters, especially Konkona Sen Sharma’s Indu, are fiercely independent and are at the centre of many iconic scenes in the film.


Bhardwaj’s second film and the first of his many Shakespeare adaptations, Maqbool takes the original’s story away from the Kingdom of Scotland into the bustling streets of Mumbai, retaining the same dark tone to form a chilling crime drama. Thugs from the criminal underworld run the police department, while pandits and corrupt policemen — decidedly desi figures — replace the witches from the original.

ANGOOR, 1982

Gulzar’s take on the Shakespearean comedy has a long history of adaptations behind it, having been a remake of Do Dooni Chaar (1968), which itself was a remake of the aforementioned Bhranti Bilas (1963), which in turn was an adaptation of an earlier play by the same name, speaking to the plot’s amazing longevity. As one of the few comedies made by Gulzar, this film retains his signature style and isn’t afraid to deviate significantly from the original.

Reproduced with permission from

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