Thursday, March 31, 2011

Angoor - The Comedy of Errors, Bollywood Style

This is William Shakespeare. He was a famous playwright of the 16th century. And is still considered to be the greatest. This story is based on his novel, which he called "Comedy of Errors." Several writers have penned stories revolving around twins, but Shakespeare is the only one to write a story based on 4 twins.
(Subtitles translated from Hindi)

So begins the 1982 Bollywood film "Angoor," which takes Shakespeare's basic story of two sets of twins separated in infancy and re-sets it in contemporary India.

Like the original source play, "Angoor" is highly comedic, with many...

 high-jinks ensuing after Ashok and his servant Badahur, from the town of Dinkapur, travel to a different town where everyone seems to know them! Little do they know that they each have an identical twin with the same name that is about to re-enter their lives. The film follows the play closely in some ways - as in the original, one of the Ashoks has a somewhat tense relationship with his wife, and his efforts to give her a necklace lead to much confusion.   However, the story is freely adapted in other areas: Ashok of Dinkapur is an avid fan of crime fiction, which disposes him to paranoia about gangs, and the use of drugs - variously translated in the subtitles as "hash" and "dope" - is a major, major plot point. In addition, in true Bollywood style, characters randomly burst into song - very catchy song.

 In fact, my favorite scene in the movie has nothing to do with Shakespeare and everything to do with Indian music - Tanu (acted by Deepti Naval), Ashok's sister-in-law, performs at a concert. She naturally expects her brother-in-law to attend, but when he does arrive, she is shocked to see him smoking cigarettes! Of course it's the wrong twin, but she doesn't let that stop her (well, actually famous playback singer  Asha Bhosle) from singing beautifully.

Though I'm no expert in Indian cinema, I enjoyed the movie. It's pretty long, but it has a zany energy that keeps you watching. But don't just take my word for it - the Indian movie studio has put the whole thing up on Youtube, so watch it yourself.

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