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Ian McKellen casts a spell in India and China

  • Ian McKellen in Mumbai

Ian McKellen talks to schoolchildren in Mumbai

May/June 2016

Shakespeare Lives on Film's ambassador Ian McKellen has been busy spreading his love of Shakespeare in India. Now he's headed to China.

Ian McKellen visited Mumbai in May on the first stop of his international tour for Shakespeare Lives on Film, presented by British Council and BFI.

The legendary actor was in Mumbai from May 23-26 to launch the Shakespeare on Film collection in India, in collaboration with the Jio MAMI Film Club, British Council, BFI, GREAT Campaign, NCPA and Fountainhead.

Even before the launch, McKellen was keen to interact, holding an hour-long Twitter chat on May 22 with fans across the globe following his arrival in Mumbai the night before. Questions ranged from his favourite Shakespeare roles on-screen, his eating preferences (curry beat roast) and his quote to live by: "Be nice to each other."

On-stage events

On May 23, the actor took part in a public conversation with Bollywood star Aamir Khan at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. The evening saw the veterans discuss Shakespeare and acting influences, entertaining a full house of nearly 1,000 audience members.

It also saw McKellen deliver an impromptu performance of the Elizabethan play, Sir Thomas More, receiving a standing ovation as a result.

The following day, he introduced a screening of of Richard Loncraine's brilliantly modernised version of Richard III (1995), which he co-adapted and starred in, to a small gathering of Shakespeare fans from Mumbai. It was followed by a lively discussion on the film between the actor and Robin Baker of the BFI.

Public appearances

On May 25, McKellen opened the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival as the festival's guest of honour, where he also celebrated his 77th birthday with a cake-cutting ceremony.

The final day of his tour saw him visit the B D Somani school as his iconic Lord of the Rings character Gandalf, delivering an inspirational speech to the students and watching their version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, before attending the Queen's Birthday Party with the High Commission.

During his speech at the event, McKellen paid tribute to the British Council: "I have been, throughout my career, in constant debt to the British Council."

McKellen's Indian trip generated a huge amount of press coverage, including the likes of Times of India, and social media activity on the hashtag #McKellenInIndia.

China and beyond

His next stop on the international tour will be China -- he's already in the country and will appear at the Shanghai International Film Festival from June 11.

This will see him take part in a special on-stage event discussing Richard III, as well as conducting a 'Smart Talk on Shakespeare on Stage, Screen and Elsewhere' with the British Council.

Next up, he's headed to Russia -- stay tuned to British Council Film about all the exciting programmes organised around Midsummer.

The film tour is part of the larger Shakespeare Lives project, which sees the British Council celebrating Shakespeare as a living icon on the 400th anniversary of his death.

See more images of Ian in India at this blog and follow along with more Shakespeare Lives activity on the Twitter hashtag #ShakespeareLives.