I caught the first screening of Omkara, and I must say that I am astounded. Vishal Bharadwaj had previously carved a niche for himself in the industry, with the likes of Makdee and Maqbool, but Omkara puts him in a league of his own. It is an exquisite work of art, with each person putting in their best. Everyone knows Omkara to be an adaptation of Othello, and I frankly expected Omkara to be just that. At best, I thought it would be Vishal's homage to Shakespeare. I was terribly wrong.
Omkara is a poem in itself. Every aspect of the movie has the dedication and tenacity of the director stamped on it (considering he has handled direction, dialogues, screenplay, music, and even sung a song). The beauty of Omkara lies not in its portrayal of Othello, but the fact that it uses Othello as a platform to weave an intricate tale of love, obsession, treachery and tragedy. Yes, Omkara is an adaptation of Othello, but that is not the strength of the movie. The real strength of the movie lies in the performances of all the characters, and the gripping narrative. From the word go, Omkara has you by the crotch (pardon the usage), and lets go only after the last credits have rolled off.
Vishal's Omkara (Othello) is the chieftain of a band of outlaws in a semi-lawless rural area in Uttar Pradesh. His brother and right hand man is Langda Tyagi (Iago), named so for his limp. Another prominent figure in this gang is Keshu Firangi(Michael Cassio), the only member to have a college education. Omkara is in love with the bewitchingly beautiful Dolly (Desdemona), and she with him. At her behest, he and his gang interrupt her wedding and bring her to his village. In the village, Langda's wife Indu(Emilia) takes Dolly under her wing, becoming companion and friend. When Omkara appoints Keshu as the youth leader of the gang, Langda (who anticipated the post) feels jealous and overlooked, and seeks revenge by convincing Omkara that Dolly is having an affair with Keshu behind his back. For most part the story is the same as that of Othello, with just the background of each character adapted to suit the Indian temperament. Also, the language used a mix of Hindi and Bhojpuri, which adds to the aesthetics of the movie.
Ajay Devgan as Omkara ascends to new heights of emoting, using his eyes to convey so much more than he could ever say. The obsessive lover, the ruthless gang leader, a man eaten up by his inferiority complex and the doubts borne thereof, Ajay lives every moment of his character.
Viveik Oberoi is seen after a bit of a hiatus, and does considerably well. As the childlike Keshu, with his boyish grin and charm, you can't help liking him, and feeling sorry for him.
Kareena Kapoor has always been an actress to reckon with in my books, since her 'Refugee' 'Chameli', and 'Dev' days, and proves her mettle as the devoted and loving Dolly. Quality work from a largely underrated actress, proving that she's a lot more than the glam girl she often portrays.
The surprise of the pack was Bipasha, who does a considerably extended 'special' appearance and ample justice to her role as Billo, Keshu's love interest.
Neseeruddin Shah as the overlord Bhaisaab, is a treat to watch. To say anything more would take away from the essence of his performance.
Konkana Sen-Sharma as the simple, yet shrewd Indu is brilliance personified. With her natural accent and looks, she suits the role to a T. You instantly see in Indu a strong and loving woman. Be it as Dolly's friend, Lagda's wife, or as a bhabhi to the younger members of the gang, Konkana has the role down pat. Particularly endearing is her 'kheiin', akin to an 'arre'.
Each of these actors has portrayed their characters faultlessly, and no other actor could have done them better. Yet they all pale in comparison to Saif Ali Khan, as the cunning, devious, and calculating Langda Tyagi. This man is simply too good an actor. Sly and manipulative, his persona exudes pure evil,without even the stereotype evil laugh. His eyes strike a fear that resonates deep in your soul, and even hours after the movie is over,Langda is the character you keep thinking of, and is easily the pick of the lot. If Saif deserved a National Award for HUM TUM, then an award for this is a no-brainer.
Hats off to all the cast and crew members of Omkara, and to Vishal Bharadwaj, for creating this masterpiece of contemporary Hindi cinema.
PS- Watch out for the expletives used freely in the movie. They are a source of humour in themselves. :)