Apart from ‘Cirkus,’ here are 8 Bollywood films inspired by Shakespeare’s plays

Every single human being on this planet knows William Shakespeare. It doesn’t matter even if she doesn’t know or speak English; she is still aware of the Great Bard and at least knows Romeo-Juliet. Fun fact: Laila-Majnu and Heer-Ranjha were written first, and then Romeo and Juliet came to life in 16th century England.

But there is a very real reason why Shakespeare is immortal and still read around the world. Because he deals with the most primal, relatable and basic human emotions of love, grief, loss and family joys. These 4 themes are also the most common ones in every Bollywood film that’s ever been made, too. Which is why some movie makers (Vishal Bharadwaj, I’m looking at you), enjoy adapting Shakespeare onto the big screen, all the while contextualising his dramas in local Indian ones.

Most recently, it was announced that Rohit Shetty, Ranveer Singh, Jacqueline Fernandes and Pooja Hegde will be teaming up to recreate Shakespeare’s hilarious play The Comedy of Errors, which will release as ‘Cirkus‘. In preparation for this definite blockbuster hit, here are 8 Shakespeare-inspired Bollywood films that you must watch:

Do Dooni Chaar

This Kishore Kumar-Tanuja starrer is the first time Bollywood adapted The Comedy of Errors into one of its movies. It released in 1968 and was a commercial success back then. The premise is simple but comedic: when a banker and his assistant head to a small town on a business trip, they are mistaken for a merchant and his servant who live in the town, causing much confusion. In typical Kishore Kumar-esque comedic fashion, the plot unravels and leaves it audience ROFL-ing.


The first ‘Comedy of Errors‘ adaptation, Angoor was a huge hit when it came out in 1982. The film is about two pairs of identical twins separated at birth and how their lives go haywire when they meet in adulthood. Starring Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma — both of whom play double roles to make up for twins — Moushmi Chatterjee and Deepti Naval, Angoor is an iconic film that is still relevant, even today. Its jokes are immortal and remain as hilarious as ever. You can stream Angoor now on Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar.


The first in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Shakespeare trilogy, Maqbool is the spectacular adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Macbeth. The late, and great, Irrfan Khan plays Maqbool, an underworld don’s henchman, who falls in love with the enchanting Nimmi, played by Tabu. Nimmi is none other than the wickedly cunning Lady Macbeth, and none other than Tabu could have played her with as much sensitivity and grace.


In Omkara, Vishal Bharadwaj took inspiration from Othello and gathered a stellar ensemble cast of Ajay Devgn as Omkara, Saif Ali Khan as ‘Langda’, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu. Langda dreams of becoming Omkara’s successor after the latter wins the election. But when Omkara appoints Kesu as his lieutenant, Langda feels betrayed and plots revenge. This movie has it all: family drama, political drama, romantic drama…drama pe drama. And fabulous music. A must watch.


Probably one of the best films of 2014, Haider is Vishal Bharadwaj’s take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and stars Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Shraddha Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, albeit briefly. Bharadwaj takes the madness of Hamlet to the grim reality of Kashmir in the 90s, the madness that exists among a people who are oppressed and live in a conflict zone. Haider seeks closure regarding his father’s disappearance, but the state’s politics overpower him. Tabu and Shahid’s phenomenal chemistry, the gorgeous music and Kashmir’s heartbreakingly scenic backdrop makes Haider unique.


This romcom-action thriller stars Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor, and is nothing short of masala. They play the roles of Parma Chauhan and Zoya Qureshi: two rebellious individuals who belong to two rival political families. When they fall in love, their families set out to kill them. Habib Faisal’s take on Laila-Majnu/Romeo-Juliet/Heer-Ranjha, call it what you want, is jam-packed with fiery dialogues, hit songs like Pareshan and Ishaqzaade (title track), an seductive love story, and an inevitable tragedy that we all know, but still love to watch. You can stream Ishaqzaade now on Prime Video.


In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s eccentric, brilliant, fevered mind, there existed a fictional village in Gujarat that was drugs, guns, and sex galore. This came to life in the spectacular film that starred Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, Ram-Leela. The story may be overdone: Ram and Leela love each other but cannot stay together as their families, Rajadi and Sanera, have been at war with each other for the past 500 years. But still, it remains as glorious as ever. Probably because of the sizzling chemistry between the leads (who are now married, so thanks SLB), or because of the INSANE music that has become all of our official Navratri soundtracks, Ram-Leela seduced us all as audience members.

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak

This may be a lesser known fact, but the Aamir Khan-Juhi Chawla 1988 megahit Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is based on the Heer-Ranjha/Laila-Majnu/Romeo-Juliet franchise. Despite knowing that their respective families are bitter enemies, Raj and Rashmi fall in love with each other and decide to elope. Raj and Rashmi might not sound like two people whose families would oppose each other, but it was 1988 and Aamir’s and Juhi’s chemistry was the talk of the town and the movie is one melodramatic love story that every Indian loves to watch and cry to. If it is in fact qayamat, the end of the world, I wouldn’t mind this being my last movie ever.

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