“A Woman’s Story at a Winter’s Fire”?: Poetic motifs and Visual Imagery in Bhardwaj’s Feminised Reworking of Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet

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Vishal Bhardwaj’s three Shakespeare-derived films, Maqbool (Macbeth), Omkara (Othello) and Haider (Hamlet) all transpose Shakespeare’s great tragedies into a modern Indian context in the tradition of what is often referred to as ‘presentist Shakespeare’. In this respect all three movies correspond to the third and freest level of adaptation, analogy, proposed by Bela Balasz and Geoffrey Wagner, in their film adaptation taxonomies. As Poonam Trivedi has argued in Shakespeare and Indian Cinema, Bhardwaj invests Shakespeare’s female protagonists, Lady Macbeth (Nimmi), Desdemona (Dolly) and Gertrude (Ghazala), with a stronger agency than is evident in the original characters and plots.
In her book chapter ‘Woman as Avenger: Indianising the Shakespearean Tragic in the Films of Vishal Bhardwaj’ Trivedi posits that the aura of redemption evoked by the sight of Nimmi’s newborn baby translates Shakespeare’s apocalyptic poetic image, “Pity, like a naked new born babe striding the blast...shall blow the horrid deed in every eye”, into a powerful visual metaphor emblematic of the twist in his ending of the adaptation. In my paper I propose that these narrative twists, common to all three of Bhardwaj’s free adaptations, are facilitated by the director’s virtuosic transformation of Shakespeare’s rich figurative language.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
EventWomen and Indian Shakespeares Conference : Exploring Cinema, Translation, Performance - Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Ireland
Duration: 30 Oct 20191 Nov 2019


ConferenceWomen and Indian Shakespeares Conference
Internet address



  • Women
  • Indian cinema
  • Shakespeare
  • Vishal Bhardwaj
  • Adaptation

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