This morning India voted for a socially regressive, insular and singular religious idiocracy. Watching SHAKESPEARE WALLAH today after everything that has happened is bittersweet. For you see this dream of an India that had just escaped colonial rule and had began its long climb to superpower status, through the lense of a love story. Not just any love story however. An interracial love, one that had a legacy. A legacy of art and imported dreams.
For today we have seen that India does not want hope, it wants a hate that many NRI have money on. Guilt is at the core of this NRI delusion. As is it here. Felicity Kendall stars as Lizzie, an English component of a travelling troupe. She is living through colonial guilt. Sanju played by Shashi Kapoor (who married Felicitys sister Jennifer in real life) is guilty that he loves a woman that is not Indian. Manjula (MAdhur Jaffrey or that cooking lady) is in love with Sanju but is guilt stricken about her devious plans to thwart the love between the two.
This film brought Merchant Ivory to the world’s attention. It might have been the exoticness of the vision, or the humanity on screen but I suspect it was the stroy played time immemorial around the globe of love between the races. All human mind. Subrata Mitra is rightly at the centre of much of the appreciation of the film from critical voices but the disc looks to the Merchant Ivory team with a sublime Q and A that talks at detail about Shakespeare. They defined what India was post colonial hangover for the west. However the most amazing piece is that of Shashi Tharoor and his Q and A. He is charming, clear sighted and convivial. All in all an actor and gentlemen.
- New 2K restoration
- The Guardian Lecture: Ismail Merchant and James Ivory (1983, 82 mins): the director and producer in conversation with David Robinson at the NFT
- The Guardian Interview: Shashi Kapoor (1994, 54 mins, audio only): the actor in conversation with film critic Derek Malcolm at the NFT
- Conversations from the Quad with James Ivory and Madhur Jaffrey (2018, 48 mins): the director and actor discuss working together
- A Road in India (1938, 9 mins): Technicolor travelogue shot by award-winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff
- Original trailer (1965)
- Restoration trailer (2017)
- **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Fully illustrated booklet with writing by James Ivory and John Pym, an interview with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, original review and full film credits