Thursday, July 27, 2006

Omkara (2006)



I took only the masterline from Othello and sketched it from there on my own. I almost felt as if I had written it …only 400 years ago.- Vishal Bharadwaj

Haughty comment of a wannabe or simplistic fascination of an artist? A fairly new and art-house director with a star-cast to challenge any Yash Chopra production and an eight-figure production budget is not just a rarity in Indian cinema, but unheard of. What Vishal ends up delivering is highly-intelligent cinema with all the accessibilty of any major commercial release (akin to a Batman Begins as a summer movie). I can't resist quoting from my review of Maqbool:
Give Vishal Bharadwaj a solid pat on the back, and sit back waiting for his next movie. This man seethes brilliance in his film-making. His dialogues, his script, his music, and his direction - all are top-notch. This movie proves that Makdi was no fluke.
Omkara (Ajay Devgan) is a gang-leader in the semi-lawless state of Bihar. Bhaisaab's (Naseer's) election win promotes Omi, leaving his "Youth Leader" seat empty. In a logical political move, Omi selects Kesu Firangi (Vivek Oberoi) as his successor ignoring his loyal right-hand-man Langda Tyagi (Saif). Green with envy, Langda slowly poisons Omkara's mind against Kesu leading him down a path too dark for anyone's good. Kareena, Konkona & Bipasha play Omi, Langda & Kesu's love interests respectively.

The movie starts in the middle of an attempted wedding of a girl and carries on until she gets married. The events that transpire inbetween, the turns that different people take to affect her life and the eventual effect is Vishal Bharadwaj's unique Omkara. The title of his second Shakespearean movie went through a few changes before finally resting on his Othello equivalent. But this movie could easily have also been called "Dolly Mishra" or "Langda Tyagi". These three characters equally occupy our minds with their unpredictable fates and yet it is the triumph of Saif Ali Khan's powerfully vile performance that his limp Tyagi towers head and shoulders above anybody around him.

Vishal writes the Screenplay & Dialogues, composes music, sings and directs in just his fourth movie1 yet which only strengthens the silent promise his is making to his fans of greater things to come. Missing are the escapist dream sequences and melodramatic dialogues that Hindi movies are generally associated with. He instead roots the movie in realism with even the song-and-dance sequences being what are existent in a real-world Indian lifestyle. Do be aware though : the setting of the story in rural north-India requires the vocabulary to be, and is therefore quite explicit in an authentic depiction of the conversational style of the said area.

Anyone who has followed Indian cinema since the 70s will note the clear influence in Vishal's work-style from his previous two movies. It does help to have this influence (Gulzar) as the lyricist of the movie and (my guess) a quiet advisor too. The most clear indication of this is in the dialogues and the style of sparesly sprinkled humour.

My only gripe with the movie was the language spoken by the characters. It is a mix of Hindi & Bhojpuri - something that is indeed spoken in Bihar. But this gripe is more to do with my short-coming in not understanding the language rather than a flaw in the movie.

If you have not seen an Indian movie in a Long time, this is the one to break your hiatus with.

My rating --> 4.5 of 5

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