Over the years, we have seen numerous adaptations and retellings of Shakespeare’s plays. While the settings and backgrounds differ, the political scenarios and repressive conventions that repeat throughout history provide the scope for such adaptations. Today, let’s have a look at Malayalam movies that drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays.
Kaliyattam – Othello
Balram Mutannoors script, Jayaraj’s direction, and extraordinary performances by Suresh Gopi, Manju Warrier, Lal, and the rest of the cast combine together to make Kaliyattam the most widely acclaimed adaptation of Othello. Othello, the moor of Venice, captures passion, jealousy and greed in their raw form. Kannan Perumalayan’s and Thamara’s passionate love becomes the scapegoat for Paniyan to manifest his desires to achieve the prestigious Theechamundi role. While there are changes in the settings and minute details, Kaliyattam is one of the most authentic adaptations of Othello.
Veeram – Macbeth
When the northern ballads (Vadakkan Paatukal) are clubbed with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we get Veeram. This 2016 movie was directed and scripted by Jayaraj. With a huge cast, the film is made in Hindi and English apart from Malayalam to attract worldwide recognition. In Veeram, Macbeth corresponds to Chandu Chekavar played by Kunal Kapoor. The cinematographic experience crafted by S. Kumar and the background scores by Jeff Rona gives you the feels as you watch the movie. Even when Veeram was the debut Malayalam movie for many of the actors, they were genuine in portraying the characters assigned to them.
Kannaki – Antony and Cleopatra
When this Shakespearean classic is transformed into Kannaki by Jayaraj, we are awed at the creativity that has transcended the setting from the Roman Empire to a village in Kerala where cockfighting is an important aspect. This 2001 movie is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra starring Lal, Siddique, Nandita Das, Geetu Mohandas, and Manoj K Jayan in the main roles. As the movie is loosely set around the classic one cannot expect an exact adaptation. However, Sajeev Killikulam’s script has helped in adapting the plot without losing its essence. With its stunning cinematography, making and direction, it is one of the most innovative adaptations of the classic.
Eeda – Romeo and Juliet
B. Ajithkumar takes a modern outlook of Shakespeares’ evergreen romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Set in the northern Malabar region, it is an eye-opener to the social atrocities that happen under the guise of politics. This movie got its casting right with actors like Surabhi Lakshmi, Sujith Shanker, Shane Nigam, Alancier, and Nimisha Sajayan. The chemistry between the protagonists is on point that the viewers are instantly drawn into their small world of love that evolves with the tantrums life throws at them.
Annayum Rasoolum – Romeo and Juliet
Annayum Rasoolum, Rajeev Ravi’s directorial debut, is another modern-day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The movie is explored through a third-person narrative that makes it a curious journey with twists and turns. While difference in political opinion act as a barrier between the characters in Eeda, it is religion that makes things difficult for the star-crossed lovers in Annayum Rasoolum. The magical love story is elevated by the magical soundtrack composed by KK (Krishna Kumar) that includes some of the best Mehboob songs in a remixed form.
Karmayogi – Hamlet
Karmayogi is a 2012 movie directed by V. K Prakash and written by Balram Matanoor starring Indrajit, Nitya Menon, Saiju Kurup, Kani Kusruthi, and Padmini Kolhapur. As the title suggests, it is the story of the destined akin to Hamlet. Rudran Gurukkal, played by Indrajit, is out to exact revenge on his uncle who marries his mother Mankamma after murdering his father. The adaptation resembles the events in Hamlet but in a different context. Indrajith’s versatile acting breathes life into Hamlet and his mental conflict “to be or not to be”.
Iyobinte Pusthakam – King Lear
This multistarrer, directed by Amal Neerad, is loosely based on King Lear. Set in mid-20th-century Munnar, we are introduced into the life of Iyob, a greedy man who acquires wealth through vicious plans after his employer, Mr. Harrison ( a British businessman), dies. The relationship between Iyob and his three sons Ivan, Dmitry, and Aloshy is similar to Shakespeare’s King Lear and his three daughters. Aloshy, played by Fahad Faasil, resembles Cordelia in terms of his honesty, compassion, and justice. As Cordelia refuses to play along with her sisters when asked to express her love for her father, Aloshy stands for what he believes in.
Joji – Macbeth
Joji is the latest addition to this list. Joji, an engineering drop out, is driven by an ambition of becoming a successful and rich NRI. His father, who owns a rich plantation, isn’t impressed with his youngest son’s aspirations. Joji, therefore, is treated as the ‘loser’ in the family. Ego-clashes, greed, and blind ambition pushes Joji to do the unexpected.
Are there other Mollywood films that drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays? Tell us in comments.