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, and as I said, this movie proves that Makdi was no fluke.
The movie is based on Macbeth; and oh does it stay faithful to the story. For setting, Vishal trades the Lord & Lady for 'Bhai' (Gangster) and Mistress in today's Mumbai underworld complete with corrupt cops, loads of handguns and conniving politicians.
The story follows Maqbool (Macbeth: Irfan Khan), the right-hand man of Abbaji (King Duncan: Pankaj Kapoor) - the most powerful and influential ganglord in Mumbai. Abbaji's mistress Nimmi (Lady Macbeth: Tabu) falls in love with Maqbool & inspires him to kill Abbaji and take-over his empire. What they did not expect was the surfacing of guilt, and loyals to Abbaji.
Vishal projects the story from inside the crime-family, playing with the loyalties of the viewer. Every character is built deep; you can't find yourself rooting for or against anyone, so justified is each in his/her actions. Add to that the wonderful dialogues & screenplay hiding a mock to reality, society and movies. Watching this movie alone at home, I applauded on a regular basis - so fulfilling was the experience.
The best 'character translation' of the play for me was morphing the three witches that haunt Macbeth into the two corrupt cops, as played by the brilliant-to-a-fault Naseeruddin Shah & Om Puri. The two actors signed up for the smaller roles just to have a chance to work with each other after a long time, and oh are there sparks on screen. If this was Hollywood, we would see a spin-off on their characters. Most of the hum-our-draped satire comes from these two, and it is the kind of hum-our you shake your head at, not roll laughing at. Although I like Naseer more, Om gets and does the better part here.
Irfan Khan IS the successor of these two actors. He again portrays a character as if he was born to play it. From his matter-of-fact way of delivering lines to the screamingly clear eyes, he is a treat to watch. Tabu plays Lady Macbeth as her usual self. Nothing beyond competent, but nothing below either.
And Pankaj Kapoor: He again proves how under-rated he is. From the tormented scientist in Ek Doctor ki Maut to the hilarious possessive father in Chameli ki Shaadi, this guy has done all of the variety and is as good as the best, but never got the recognition that Naseer & Om got. Indeed, Kapoor redefines the Indian gang lord, and surpasses all previous attempts at such a role. His Abbaji is the most captivating character in the movie, yet the most firmly rooted in reality. It defines: If Mumbai has a Godfather, this is he or how he should be.
Each of the actors that have portrayed their respective characters, I can't think of even one major character being replaced by any other in bollywood.
I rate this film 4.5 of 5
Trivia: - The first scene of the movie shows a minion with Naseer & Om Puri. This thin faced bald actor is the co-screen-writer Abbas Tyrewala putting in a cameo. - Naseerudding Shah conducted a workshop for all actors in the movie for a few days before start of filming, to get everyone in character and for natural interactions. - Shekhar Kapoor saw this movie at a European (I forget which) Film Festival, and offered Vishal a movie then & there. They discussed plans till dawn. - Macbeth is Vishal's favourite play. He wanted to make a movie for mature audiences after his debut with the children's movie Makdee (Shabana Azmi played the witch for free in that one!)