Director Jayaraj tops the list, having adapted three celebrated plays of the Bard into his films.

A number of people are in the picture which is a collage of three film stills in a pink background -- Kaliyattam Annayum Rasoolum and JojiStills from 'Kaliyattam', 'Annayum Rasoolum' and 'Joji'
Flix Mollywood Saturday, April 17, 2021 - 18:47

Actors and writers of theatre have time and again forayed into the world of cinema, bringing with them the magic of the stage. Makers of Malayalam cinema have adapted several renowned plays into films. And William Shakespeare, the Bard loved all over the world, has also influenced a number of movies. Director Jayaraj tops the list, having adapted three celebrated plays of the Bard into his films. There have been others down the lane. Here is a list of Malayalam films adapted, loosely or otherwise, from Shakespeare plays.

1. Kaliyattam (1997): This Jayaraj movie of Suresh Gopi and Manju Warrier is perhaps the first noticed Shakespearean adaptation in Malayalam. The actors play a married couple, in this adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello. Suresh Gopi plays Kannan Perumalayan, a Theyyam artiste, who gets married to Thamara (a teenaged Manju Warrier). He is possessive of her and plays the equivalent of Shakespeare's jealous Othello. Lal, like Iago in Othello, plays the conniving character who puts ideas into Perumalayan's head about poor Thamara and another artist Kanthan (Biju Menon). Manju Warrier's Desdemona, in that early stage of her career, was much appreciated and Suresh Gopi won both the State and the National Awards for Best Actor for his performance in Kaliyattam.

2. Kannaki (2001): Another Jayaraj film, Kannaki is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra. Nandita Das plays the titular character, the Cleopatra to Lal's Antony. Lal here is Manickam, a cockfighter, who is friends with Choman (Siddique), and in love with Kannaki. Choman's sister Kumudam (Geetu Mohandas) is also in love with Manickam. Manoj K Jayan plays the antagonist Gounder. Cleopatra, regarded as a complex woman character, gets a Malayali adaptation in Kannaki, strong-willed and stubborn as she is.

3. Karmayogi (2012): Director VK Prakash said that it was an adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Indrajith becomes the protagonist, playing the unhappy son who has lost his father. Much like Hamlet, forever gloomy over his father's murder and his mother's betrayal in marrying the murderer uncle, Rudran (Indrajith) plays an introvert, swearing revenge. Nithya Menen becomes the weak Ophelia to Indrajith's Hamlet, Padmini Kolhapure the mother and Thalaivasal Vijay the villain uncle Claudius.

Watch: VK Prakash on Karmayogi

4. Annayum Rasoolum (2013): Rajeev Ravi, when he turned from cinematographer to director, had Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in mind for his debut, Annayum Rasoolum. Fahadh Faasil becomes Rasool and Andrea Jeremiah, Anna, in this disquieting love story set in Kochi. There are a lot of silent exchanges amid nostalgic music, forbidden love, escapades and the inevitable tragedy. It doesn't end quite the way Romeo and Juliet does though.

5. Iyobinte Pusthakam (2014): This film by Amal Neerad is reportedly a loose adaptation of King Lear. Shakespeare's play had a father and three daughters while Amal's film has a father (Lal) and three sons (Chemban Vinod, Jinu Joseph and Fahadh Faasil). Both stories deal with sibling love and treachery, and the fight for wealth. Iyob also has a major Dostoyevsky reference with the three sons named after the three brothers in Brothers Karamazov.

6. Veeram (2016): Another Jararaj movie, the film is an adaptation of Macbeth, and the fifth in a ‘navarasa’ series that the director has been doing. It tells the story of Chandu Chekavar (played by Kunal Kapoor), a warrior who lived in 13 century Malabar. Kunal Kapoor who got trained in Kalaripayattu for the film said that it was every actor's wish to play Macbeth.

7. Joji (2021): Yet again Macbeth got adapted, but loosely, in that wonder filmmaker Dileesh Pothan's film Joji. Fahadh Faasil plays the title character, sort of tailor-made for him, considering his taste for such non-confirming characters. The Lady Macbeth of the film is played by the talented Unnimaya. Certain critics were unhappy with the adaptation but the film mostly got positive reviews for its making.

Also read: Playing Bincy, the Lady Macbeth of 'Joji': Unnimaya Prasad interview

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