13 Times Bollywood Adapted Shakespeare’s Writings

Murder, mistaken identities, thrill, romance, usurpation plots – you name it, and it is present in William Shakespeare’s plays. The Bards plays have stood against the test of time and continue to be relevant even now.

The intense drama Shakespeare’s plots contain serve as perfect scripts for Bollywood movies, and his plays have been adapted into movies both in Hollywood and Bollywood. 

Here’s a list of movies that are inspired by Shakespeare’s plays –

The Comedy Of Errors – 

One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, The Comedy of Errors, is an absurd comedy set around two pairs of identical twins who are accidentally separated at birth. The play is a mad mix of mistaken identities, wrongful beatings, seduction, false accusations, theft, and even possession by demons! This play has been adapted into a movie numerous times.

One of the earliest adaptations of this play was the 1968 film Do Dooni Char starring Kishore Kumar, Asit Sen, Sudha Rani, Tanuja, and Rashid Khan. This movie was a remake of a Bengali movie Bhranti Bilas, an adaptation of a play loosely based on The Comedy of Errors, written by Iswarchandra Vidyasagar.

Do Dooni Char was remade by Gulzar in 1982 as Angoor. It starred Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in dual roles.

Rohit Shetty is remaking Angoor. Titled Cirkus, the film is slated to release towards the end of 2021 and stars Ranveer Singh, Jacqueline Fernandez, and Pooja Hegde in the lead roles.

Twelfth Night –

This romantic comedy by Shakespeare centers on the characters of Viola, Sebastian, Orsino, and Olivia. Viola and Sebastian are twins who get separated due to a shipwreck; Viola lands in Illyria, where Duke Orsino holds court. Alone in a foreign country, Viola takes the guise of a young man, names herself Cesario, and goes to meet the Duke.

The Duke is in love with Countess Olivia and wishes to win her favor. Deciding that Cesario (Viola) would make a suitable messenger, Orsino sends Cesario to Olivia to relay his love for her, but over the meetings, Olivia falls in love with Cesario. Viola, in the meantime, has fallen in love with the Duke. Sebastian turns up in Illyria, and Olivia mistaking him for Cesario gets married to him. In the end, mistaken identities are resolved, and everyone gets their happily-ever-after. There is wooing, romance, false identities, meddling servants, and drunken revelry.

Dil Bole Hadippa!, a 2009 film starring Rani Mukerji and Shahid Kapoor in the lead roles, was adapted from the film She’s the Man, an adaptation of Twelfth Night. The movie is about a young woman (Mukerji) who pretends to be a man to join a cricket team.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 

This comedy by Shakespeare revolves around the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, with several overlapping subplots. The characters of the subplots find themselves in a mystical forest inhabited by fairies who manipulate the humans. This play is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works.

The play was adapted into a film in 2012 titled 10ml LOVE. The story was set in a contemporary context, featuring the intertwined lives of three couples. Rajat Kapoor, Tisca Chopra, Purab Kohli, Koel Purie, Tara Sharma, and Neil Bhoopalam as the couples.

Macbeth – 

This tragedy is one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. It tells the story of Macbeth, a trusted general of the Scottish King Duncan, who is foretold a prophecy by three witches that he will become the King of Scotland. Initially hesitant, he is spurred to action in a sudden moment of ambition, and encouraged by his wife, kills the King, who had been staying as a guest in his house. What follows is a series of murders and wars, subsequently leading to the downfall of the Macbeths.


The play was adapted into a film by Vishal Bhardwaj in 2004. Maqbool saw Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Pankaj Kapur, and Masumeh Makhija starring in lead roles. Pankaj Kapur won a Filmfare Award for Best Actor (Critics) and a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Othello – 

Shakespeare’s tragedy revolves around Othello, a general in the Venetian army, and Iago, a junior officer. Othello is married to Desdemona, a young, beautiful, and wealthy Venetian. Iago goads and manipulates Othello into killing Desdemona in a fit of jealous rage.

Vishal Bhardwaj adapted this play into a film in 2006. Omkara featured an ensemble cast that included Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Vivek Oberoi, and Bipasha Basu. It was critically acclaimed and won several awards.

Hamlet – 

This revenge tragedy is Shakespeare’s most extended play. The play follows Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, as he sets out to avenge his father’s death, who Claudius had killed to seize the throne.

Haider, a 2014 film by Vishal Bhardwaj, is a modern-day adaptation of this play. It featured Shahid Kapoor and Tabu in the lead roles, with Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan in supporting roles. It concludes Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare trilogy and won several accolades.

While Haider is the most notable adaptation of Hamlet, the play had also been adapted as Khoon Ka Khoon (1935) and Hamlet (1954) previously.

Romeo and Juliet – 

Perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous play, the story follows two young star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. They belong to two families who’ve had a long-standing feud against each other, which ultimately ends when they find the young lovers dead. Instead of letting their family members kill them, they decide to unite in their death.

This play is one of the favorites to be adapted and has been adapted in various forms over the years.

The first Bollywood adaptation of this play was probably Ek Duuje Ke Liye which was released in 1981. It starred Kamal Haasan and Rati Agnihotri and was a remake of the Telegu film Maro Charitra.

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak starring Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla, was released in 1988. The film was a modern-day take on the play.

Ishaqzaade was released in 2012, starring Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra. Though it doesn’t credit the play as its source, the story does follow the journey of two young lovers belonging to families who have had a long-standing rivalry. They even die at the end, just like Romeo and Juliet did.

Issaq, a 2013 film starring Prateik Babbar, Amyra Dastur, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Ravi Kishan, and Makarand Deshpande, is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, set in modern-day Banaras.

The most famous adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is perhaps Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2013 film Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. It featured Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in the lead with Supriya Pathak, Richa Chadda, Sharad Kelkar, Gulshan Devaiah, Barkha Bisht Sengupta, and Abhimanyu Singh making up the supporting cast. It was a huge commercial success and received many accolades.

This list focuses only on the Hindi language Shakespearian adaptations.

Edited by Urvashi Gupta

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