'Haider', 'Kaliyaattam' and 'Omkara': 10 best Shakespearean adaptations in Indian cinema

The Vishal Bharadwaj trilogy to Mollywood crafts, these movies are too good to skip!

Shakespearean movie adaptations Shakespearean movie adaptations, from left: 'Maqbool', 'Haider' and 'Kannaki' (Screengrabs)

Shakespeare’s stories have a timeless magic to them. Adapted across various genres like musicals, movies, plays, operas, and many more, his legacy continues to be eternal. Even after centuries of popularity, the film industry seems to not get enough of Bard’s work. Romeo and Juliet has always been a favourite trope for moviemakers while Macbeth and Hamlet have also inspired many hits. Here are some notable Shakespearean adaptations in Indian cinema that are likely to interest you.

    1. ANGOOR

Adapted from Shakespeare’s Elizabethan drama 'The Comedy of Errors', this 1982 comedy features Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in twin roles. It was directed by the famous lyricist Gulzar as a remake of the Bengali film 'Bhranti Bilas'. He had also made a film, 'Do Dooni Chaar', with the same plot, which unfortunately did not do well at the box office. 

The film follows the story of two sets of twins with the same name who are separated after birth and the mayhem caused by people mistaking them for one another.


Directed by Mansoor Khan, 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak' is a Bollywood adaptation of the all-time love story of Romeo and Juliet. Delving into the romance of lovers who are from enemy clans, it also has elements from Indian folklore ‘Heer Ranjha’ and ‘Laila Majnu’, which also follow a similar story of the Shakespearean drama. The film marks Aamir Khan’s debut and was very popular among the youth, gaining cult status.

    3. MAQBOOL

Adapted from Macbeth, the crime drama 'Maqboo'l is the first film of the Shakespearean trilogy, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj. Maqbool, the right-hand man of a powerful don, Abba-ji, is persuaded by Nimmi, his ladylove and Abbaji’s mistress, to kill him. Just like Macbeth, the story follows his manipulation by Nimmi and the dire consequences that follow. It received critical acclaim universally, and the performances were widely praised, especially Tabu, who exceptionally brought Lady Macbeth’s essence into Nimmi.

    4. RAM-LEELA

Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, a Sanjay Leela Bhansali directorial, is another famous adaptation of the greatest tragic love story of all time -- Romeo and Juliet. Ram and Leela belong to rival families, and the film depicts the passionate and dangerous love story of these star-crossed lovers. Featuring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in lead roles, this film is akin to every other Bhansali movie, with majestic costumes and grandiose sets making it a feast for our eyes.

    5. OMKARA

The second film in the trilogy by Vishal Bharadwaj, this crime drama is an adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy 'Othello'. Set in Meerut, it stars Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Vivek Oberoi, and Konkana Sen Sharma in the lead roles. 

The plot revolves around the story of a goon, Omkara, who abducts his ladylove, Dolly Mishra, and the manipulation and misunderstandings that befall him. Exploring the themes of betrayal, jealousy, manipulation, and social reality, it is the best film in Bharadwaj’s trilogy.


This 1963 film starring Sivaji Ganesan and P. Bhanumathi was adapted from the Tamil play ‘Penn Paduthum Paadu', which itself is loosely based on Shakespeare’s drama ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Due to his financial needs, the protagonist Alavanthan tames an independent and stubborn woman, Manorama, to marry her, which forms the gist of the story.


Set against the backdrop of the folk ritual of Theyyam, 'Kaliyattam' is the first known adaptation of Shakespeare’s dramas in Malayalam. This Mollywood adaptation of Othello, starring Suresh Gopi and Manju Warrier as Othello and Desdemona, respectively, delves into the life of Kannan, a Theyyam artist, and a series of tragic events caused by the actions of Paniyan, a character who corresponds to Iago. 'Kaliyattam' received high praise and even earned Suresh Gopi his first national award for his performance in the movie.

    8. HAIDER

Based on Hamlet, 'Haider' is a crime-thriller drama in the context of the 1995 Kashmir strife. It is the third part of the Shakespearean trilogy directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, after 'Maqboo'l and 'Omkara'. Featuring Shahid Kapoor as Haider (Prince Hamlet) and Tabu as Ghazala Meer, Haider's mother (Gertrude), it tells the tale of a youngster, who returns to Kashmir seeking answers. Also inspired by Basharat Peer's 'Curfewed Night', Shahid’s stellar execution of Haider is said to be one of the best performances of his career.

    9. KANNAKI

'Kannaki', an adaptation of Antony and Cleopatra, is a Malayalam-language tragedy starring Nandita Das and Lal in the lead. The film hinges on the tragic love story of Manickam (Antony) and Kannaki (Cleopatra) and the misunderstandings and fallacies that lead to their downfall and death. Directed by Jayaraj, the film delivers the core plot of the tragedy in a different cultural context by incorporating folk songs and Kalaripayattu.


Inspired by King Lear, 'Gunasundari Katha' is one of the earliest adaptations of Shakespeare in the history of Indian cinema. The plot revolves around a veteran egoistic king, Ugrasena (Lear), and his three daughters, Rupasundari (Goneril), Hemasundari (Regan), and Gunasundari (Cordelia). The unfolding events after Gunasundari’s unjust treatment as she refuses to flatter her father like her sisters make up the remainder of the plot. Unlike King Lear, this film has a compelling narrative and a positive ending.

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