The bad-ass trailer.
Vishal Bhardwaj's Bollywoodized Othello-remake, Omkara, is a strutting, masculine ride through the raunch and jealousies of men, and the havoc these men wreak on the woman who love them. More hypnotic and spacious than his previous Shakespearean joyride, the moody Maqbool, Omkara is set in the 'Wild West of India', the region of Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps Bhardwaj has a fascination with the lawless, but once again Shakespeare has been teleported into a criminal organization. This time, it's the rootin' tootin' gang of Omkara (Ajay Devgan), second banana and chief thug to Boss Bhaisaab (an eerie Naseeruddin Shah).
The sweaty, raunchy, boozed up dance party.
Omkara has two lieutenants of his own: the grimy and thick Langda (Saif Ali Khan), and the boyish and also thick Kesu (Viveik Oberoi). When Bhaisaab wins a seat in Parliament (shudder at the thought), he nominates Omkara to be official Crime Boss, leaving Omkara then to pick his General. Or Captain. Or whatever, we don't really understand the military metaphors. Anyway, if you know Shakespeare's original, you know that Omkara picks Kesu over Langda, much to Langda's chagrin. Langda then decides that the only way he can ease the pain of rejection is by destroying everything that is beautiful around him. Namely, the illicit love story between "half-caste" Omkara and his (presumably full-caste) fiancee, Dolly (Kareena Kapoor).
What follows is a train crash, protracted over nearly three hours. If you know the original, you know what to expect and, inevitably, you sit in grim anticipation as Langda manipulates Omkara's jealousies and creates an imagined world of sweaty adultery. If you've never seen the original, let's just say things don't really work out.
The haunting romantic melody. Doomed indeed.
Ajay Devgan is stiff and lumbering as the Othello character. But he does what he's supposed to, which is smolder for two hours, and then briefly weep. Likewise Kareena Kapoor is just Holy and Spotless enough that we feel genuinely sorry for her end, even though we didn't like her throughout the film. The milk and coal joke certainly seems... erm, apropos.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Omkara is how amazing Saif Ali Khan is as Iago. Iago is generally a difficult character to play; too easily he becomes a charicature of the devil, all cackles and twirling black moustaches and no depth whatsoever. What Saif manages to do, even with the prototypical Shakespearean device of a bad leg, is invest Iago with a sort of sinister depth. Here is a man who hates himself, and, by natural extension, everyone around him. We at the PPCC don't like Saif Ali Khan at all, or thought we didn't, but now... Hmmm. He was certainly the only one, apart from Naseer, who was willing to look positively ugly for the film, what with his yellow teeth and lurching gait. And there's a tragic undercurrent to his behavior, a genuine and justifiable pain at being the loyal servant too-often overlooked.
Stream the lovely soundtrack.