Elegiac and atmospheric, Shakespeare Wallah put Merchant Ivory Productions on the international movie map. The film was inspired by in the real-life adventures of Ms. Kendal’s family as a traveling theater group in India during the final days of English colonial rule.
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A very slight, very early Merchant Ivory film, Shakespeare Wallah is really more of a character study than the usual lush, picturesque films Merchant Ivory would later produce. That's not a bad thing, either. Felicity Kendal, in her first role, is extraordinary, full of emotion and charm. Just, the story and the technicalities are rough. But the actors are good enough to save it.
Confronting the essential choice between a life spent in pursuit of Beauty and Truth, and a life content consumed in domestic comforts. Beautifully directed by Sir James Ivory (each shot is elegantly framed), well-acted (supporting cast does particularly well), sonically excellent (composed by the great Satyajit Ray) and written without any hint of superfluity; a very good film.