Friday 11 May 2007

Omkara (2006)

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.


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Oh wow, see, I think Saif is probably the best actor of the general troop of hero actors who are between about 45 and 30. I have been impressed repeatedly at what he's willing to do for a role and how he turns even the most dull or flat things into enjoyable performances. If you told me I could only watch the catalog of movies of one male star of that cohort group, I might very well choose his. Also I saw him on stage in Chicago and he was funny and cute and wore his Super Saif t-shirt, and I loved him.

Sorry for all the comments. I promise I'm not stalking. Blame it on RSS.

a ppcc representative said...

Saif has definitely climbed the ranks for me very rapidly, thanks basically to the vast difference between him in Omkara and him in KHNH!

No way, comment away! Whose ego wouldn't be tickled pink at knowing their blog was being read? Yeehaw!

murali said...

I consider saif pretty good with excellent comic timing. he was excellent in kal ho na ho and Ek Hasina Thi.

agree with beth that is my favourite among the actors between 35 and 45

JJC said...

I love love lovee is the perfect indian adaptation of Othello. The present rural political setting was awesome along with the dialogue delivery. the portrayal of the characters were jsut perfect; Saif's langda tyagi was great but i also think that dolly's portral by kareena was done well,her beauty worked against her after a certain point. it showcased a truth of how men can get inseucure of partners who areb tter looking, especially women.. they start to not trust them (or in soem cases men beat their women to make them feel worthless). Bipasha looks absoltely amazing, 'beedi jalaile' and 'namak isk ka' are by far her best dance numbers. my favorite part is when the father tells Omi that a girl that betrays her father can betray you too.

Anonymous said...

I think Saif gave fair notice of his ability to play this role with his negative in the underrated Ek Hasina Thi. Even so, this one was quite a surprise. It wasn't just "going ugly" -- he took his image of being a suave, urban actor and basically blew it up.


JatPat said...

I completely loved this movie. I thought it was about the best adaptation to the play I have seen. I was a little disappointed while reading the review in that I didn't notice any praise of the amazing Konkona Sen. She is simply phenomenal. I do agree that Saif was amazing. Also, I was also anti-Saif until he did movies like Omkara, Being Cyrus, Ek Haseena Thi and others. What he seems to have realized is that even when he is doing a romantic movie, he's best when he's being real. He can't do over the top acting like Shah Rukh and I think that is actually a good thing. But yeah, great movie, great songs and great performances.

That Mash Guy said...

this film is brilliant.

JD said...

There are times when Indian cinema climbs higher on borrowed material than those who have enacted the material previously. This is one of those cases. I've seen a number of adaptations of "Othello", set in various periods by excellent English-speaking actors. This version, though, kicks their collective butts. Ajay Devgan should undertake more Shakespeare, IMO, because he lays waste to everyone from Kenneth Branagh to Anthony Hopkins. He evokes with such delicate finesse the dissolve of reason and loosening of the inner beast. Saif Ali Khan strikes that rare balance in the Iago role - neither characticature nor wholly human. That I squirm at his plotting and success is testament to the portrayal as well as the source material. I normally abhor the Kapoor sisters though I was able to withstand Karisma's self-contained performance in this one. Must have been one heckuva director to keep her bottled up and bearable. Overall, an excellent revivification of this classic tale of revenge.