The first sequence of Shakespeare Wallah shows British actors clowning around like idiots while knowing Indian servants wince, and it looks like the film will be a typically simple-minded parody of British "imperialism." This early Merchant-Ivory collaboration shares the same subject matter -- the end of the British Empire -- as many of their later films, but it develops into a more intimate and nuanced work than the team's subsequent high-profile period films, like The Remains of the Day.

Probably this is because the story, which concerns an unsuccessful troupe of English Shakespearean actors in post-colonial India, is semi-autobiographical. Several of the actors, most of whom are somehow related (Felicity Kendal is the daughter of Geoffrey Kendal and Laura Liddell in life as well as on screen), were actually members of an English-Indian theatrical troupe who toured India in the 1960s. The film is most interesting as a tour of India when it was still in some ways a British country.

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