Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The only thing that I can say is that Vishal Bharadwaj has easily surpassed Shakespeare in adapting Othello to the screen. I will jump straight on to the real strength of the film - its independence of the players, the paramount direction, art settings, lyrics, dialogues in rustic UP Hindi, and the explosive music. All the actors perform their roles to the hilt, yet the film rises above them and is not grateful for its greatness to any of them. Yes, Saif Ali Khan was always expected to play the jealous sower of evil perfectly, and he does that, Kareena Kapoor is indeed the innocent, lovely girl caught up in a web of intrigue about which she doesn't even know, she doesn't even have an inkling of, and Konkona Sen the added dimension of the ignorant wife of Saif, unwittingly adding fuel to the fire. Ajay Devgan and Viveik Oberoi don't have to do really much - the film doesn't belong to them, they just have to turn out, as Bipasha Basu has to for the electrifying song, once again given by who else than Gulzar and Vishal's combo, "Bidi Jalai le". But the film's hero is purely Vishal Bharadwaj - he has captured western UP, which is far more difficult to catch than eastern UP. Not many people even attempt to catch western UP; in fact, I can't remember one instance from my experience, unless it has been the Muslim culture. So, here's something fresh, not many times seen before on the big screen - and the canvas looks so evocative, so charming, so old worldly, so pristine, so beautiful on the screen. Right from the frame when Kareena's father comes to Naseeruddin Shah to complain about his proteges (see the sunlight streaming in behind from the window, with a pile of books dishevelled in the typical, typical UP style) to the frame when Saif is provoked to jealousy sitting on the bridge and the whole bridge is seen majestic against the backdrop of the river (the whole scene is sort of fuzzy, the camera's focus is nowhere sharp, as if the camera is undecided what to point at now, and during its indecision is just revealing the majestic canvas unwittingly) - what else can you ask for? Maybe, a little more development of the characters of Kareena and Viveik, but then remember Vishal is no spoilt, darling director of the masses like a Karan Johar, he has to think of the finances too - already, adapting Othello was a bit of risk, maybe less in today's times (the film would have definitely been a non-starter ten years ago).
Even now, after being acclaimed all over by critics and audiences alike, there's a common refrain - the dialogues, the abuses. First of all, my basic problem is simply that what's the problem with the abuses themselves? Let alone the fact that such language and sexual undertones were necessary for the film, what's the problem of people with abuses that are so common in the society that they live in, that most of them themselves use in their day-to-day life. They can watch a vulgar Priyanka Chopra or a Govinda any time of the day, and they profess to be shocked with a good film, why? They don't want to take their women and children to "such" films, they ask how did the censor board pass it even with an adult certificate. And it is a fact that they are shocked; they simply do not claim to be shocked, but they are in reality. This puts me in a real confusion, a total non-understanding in fact. How can a person rave for Govinda and really feel shocked with Omkaara. Is it that they live by a set of rules and the rules begin to govern their tastes, their likings, their whole experience of the life? For how can it be explained otherwise? Or is it that they are thick-skinned? Until and unless a man pushes his cock into some girl's ass or an expletive is used, everything is fine with them? So, they will lap up all the suggestive dialogues, all the double-barrelled jokes with a good amount of smirks of pleasure, and yet they will revolt when something is shown which is totally devoid of any meanings other than what is right there before you, what is in fact a necessity, what they too know is a daily occurrence (for to imagine that in UP life would go on without abuses in small talk is absurd)? I cannot understand these double standards. Where is their shock with all the obscene songs and dialogues? Or is it that for them there exist two kinds of movies: the ones that they enjoy without inhibitions, which they in fact like, but which are not called "great", and the others which are "supposed" to be great, and hence then they bring all their definitions of "greatness" in it? After all, Mahatma Gandhi's probably greatest source of the influence over Indians was his eccentric way of living, his non-practise of sex, his remaining absurdly and unreasonably naked and bald - so even though they would not live like him and would call any of their sons as mad if he even thinks of following Gandhi in earnest, they will call him as a hero, partly because he was all that they do not understand, and partly because it has been accepted he was great.
Anyway, simply drifting. This was meant to be a review of Omkaara. Great and effective use of camera, good drama, great music and lyrics (the strength of the music lies in that it is suited to the film to the T), and preserving the plot of Othello intact with no tampering - these are the strongpoints of the film, and every film lover must watch the film.