The latest Merchant Ivory film to get the full restoration treatment from Charles S. Cohen and his Cohen Media Group is the sumptuous 1965 drama “Shakespeare Wallah,” combining the legendary production duo’s love of family drama, canny political commentary, and a hearty dose of literally Shakespearean entanglements. It’s just one of the 30 films being re-released by Cohen as part of a remastered library includes 21 feature films and 9 shorts and documentaries.
Merchant Ivory Productions was founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory — together, they produced 44 films. Founder and Oscar-nominated director Ivory has collaborated with Cohen, and serves as creative director, on the restoration, re-release, and promotion of each of the 30 films. Other recent titles of note include “Howards End” and “Maurice,” with plenty more to come.
This new “Shakespeare Wallah” restoration came from the 35MM composite fine grain master held at the archive of the George Eastman Museum, and the scan and 2K digital restoration was completed in conjunction with the British Film Institute’s Unlocking Film Heritage program.
Set in 1960s post-colonial India, “Shakespeare Wallah” follows Tony Buckingham (Geoffrey Kendal) and his wife, Carla (Laura Liddell) as the actor-managers of a motley troupe who travel the country to perform some of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. While the Buckinghams love their work, they’ve begun to see a jarring transition: English theater is falling out of favor in a changing country that’s very taken with its own Bollywood film output. Elsewhere, the Buckinghams’ daughter Lizzie (Felicity Kendal) becomes involved in a love triangle worthy of both Shakespearean prose and Bollywood splash.
The film will hit limited release in New York City on November 10 at the Quad, with a December 15 release in Los Angeles to follow at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts in Beverly Hills.
Check out our exclusive new poster for the restoration of “Shakespeare Wallah” below.