Classic Merchant-Ivory Production “Shakespeare Wallah” Slated for April 3 from Cohen Media Group

Cohen Media Group will release Merchant-Ivory Productions’ breakthrough film Shakespeare Wallah (DVD: $25.99, Blu-ray: $30.99) on April 3. One of the first Merchant-Ivory productions, this sumptuous black-and-white/English and Hindi 1965 drama established the tone for so many of the collaborations to come from producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory: a deft, multilayered screenplay by their frequent collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, luminous cinematography, a wry sense of humor, and a cast of characters rich in their very human complexity. Here, the true story of British actor-manager Geoffrey Kendal and his family of traveling theatrical players is used as a fascinating lens into the ever-evolving relationship between Great Britain and India. Shakespeare Wallah follows Tony Buckingham (Geoffrey Kendal) and his wife (Laura Liddell) as part of a troupe who travel through 1960s post-colonial India staging Shakespeare’s plays. But the Buckinghams come to realize to their dismay that classic English theater is falling out of favor in a changing country where the public has become more excited by the explosion of vibrant Bollywood films, while the Buckinghams’ daughter Lizzie (Felicity Kendal) becomes involved in a love triangle. With music by the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray and memorable performances by cinema icons Shashi Kapoor and Madhur Jaffrey, this 2K digital restoration—completed in conjunction with the British Film Institute’s Unlocking Film Heritage program—includes bonus materials such as a conversation with filmmakers Merchant and Ivory as well as Kapoor and Felicity Kendal.