It was love at first sight for Vishal Bhardwaj when he chanced upon William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and found his Mumbai-based gangster drama “Maqbool” in the tragedy, making the Bard his biggest source of inspiration. Bhardwaj, who has also given Shakespearean tragedies — “Othello” (Omkara) and “Hamlet” (Haider) — an interesting twist to suit Indian sensibilities, says his instant connection with the author’s writings was an accident.
“I fell in love with Shakespeare accidentally. I had made ‘Makdee’ and after that I wanted to make a film on gangster genre. But I wanted to make a film which was beyond gang wars, bullets, guns and blood. We have a godson, whose name is Alaap. He was studying in Dehradun and I was coming to Delhi with him in a train. I was getting bored so I asked him to give me a storybook. So, that’s how I read ‘Macbeth.’ I felt it could be a very good story for a gangster film. I read it again after coming back to Mumbai and I started adapting,” Bhardwaj said during a session titled “Word to Screen: Translating Shakespeare and Ruskin Bond” at the 13th Habitat Film Festival on Sunday evening. The session was organised in association with HarperCollins India.
Bhardwaj said his initial “ignorance” towards Shakespeare’s literature was a “bliss” for him as he was able to adapt “Macbeth” fearlessly. “When I was adapting Shakespeare for the first time, I didn’t have the realisation what I was getting into. I was just looking at the masses, who didn’t know much about Shakespeare. I felt nobody will be bothered with whatever I was doing with his literature. I was fearless. I had this instinctive connection with his literature, which probably nobody else had. I just wanted to see the conflicts he had in our own culture and society,” he said.
The director, however, faced serious nerves when “Maqbool” premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2003. “I realised that I was in a dangerous zone when the film was screened. There was a premiere and then media interactions. The only thing I had in my mind at that time was ‘thank God I did a decent job.’ Otherwise they would have ripped me apart,” he recalled.