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Elegiac and atmospheric, SHAKESPEARE WALLAH, made in 1965, was the feature film that really put Merchant Ivory Productions on the international movie map, winning them great critical acclaim. It is now recognised as a classic.
Starring a young FELICITY KENDAL, SHASHI KAPOOR and MADHUR JAFFREY, the film's inspiration lies behind the real-life adventures of Felicity Kendal's family as a travelling theatre troupe in India during the final days of English colonial rule. They try to uphold British traditions by staging Shakespeare plays, but are unable to compete with the wildly popular Bombay film industry. The film also traces the developing relationship between the young ingenue Lizzie (Kendal), with Sanju (Kapoor), a wealthy Indian playboy. But their romance is beset by hindrances, not the least being the machinations of Manjula (Jaffrey), a fiery Indian film star, who is also in love with Sanju.
Jaffrey won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance, and one of the greatest names of Indian cinema, director Satyajit Ray, provides the film's musical score.