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India 1965
Directed by
James Ivory
122 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Shakespeare Wallah

Like the first Merchant-Ivory film, The Householder (1963), the strongest feature of Shakespeare Wallah is the fine black and white photography by Satyajit Ray’s cameraman, Subrata Mitra. The story, scripted by Ivory with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, concerns the dwindling fortunes of a travelling troupe of English Shakespearean actors in an India emerging from colonial rule and into 1960s modernity and the decline in interest in theatre and the rise of  Bollywood.

The film is the semi-autobiographical account of the real Kendal family who appear here  - daughter Felicity Kendal (who went onto a long career in British television) and her parents, Geoffrey Kendal and Laura Liddell. It is a rambling, albeit earnest, affair that has some interest as a historical document but not much beyond that. Bergman this is not and in hindsight at least, it is evidence of how important high quality source material was to Merchant-Ivory’s eventual success.   

DVD Extras: High-definition digital transfer; The Delhi Way (1965), director James Ivory’s documentary about Delhi. Conversation with the Filmmakers, part of a series of interviews with Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Shashi Kapoor and Felicity Kendal; Original theatrical trailer; English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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