OMKARA MURDERS DOLLY, sits besides her, hums a lyrical ode, and you want Dolly to rise up and console Omkara! So breathtaking and stunning! Understanding Shakespeare’s plays can be daunting and bringing those characters alive is not child’s play. It needs guts and gumption to even think in celluloid terms. But Vishal Bhardwaj did it! Fresh from the success of his earlier Shakespearean adaptation Macbeth aka Maqbool, Vishal has fiddled with fire again. The music-composer turned director has brought the characters of Othello alive with his brilliant adaptation.
So what does he do? He Indianises the characters but instead of putting those characters in urban or metro locales he chooses rustic and mafia characters of Uttar Pradesh. Othello becomes Omkara (Ajay Devgan); Desdemona is turned into Dolly (Kareena), Iago is Ishwar Langda Tyagi (Saif Ali) and Cassio is Kesu (Vivek Oberoi). Bharadwaj’s version takes the same players and situations, but sets them in Uttar Pradesh, with a few tweaks here and there to the plot. Othello is a play about love, hate, jealousy, trust, tragedy and misfortune. These things have been played time and again on big screen minus authenticity and with typical Bollywood ishtyle, that made the art of Shakespeare look pedestrian! Yet to dare to bring the 400-year play alive with modern settings and do justice to it is no mean achievement.
There are no changes in the play’s structure. Omkara and Dolly are besotted with one another. In the original Othello elopes with the fair Desdemona. Omkara is the mafia lord of UP. His able lieutenant Ishwar Langda is next in waiting. While the lively Kesu is third in rank but to the utter amazement of Langda, Kesu is appointed chief lieutenant to Omkara. And it is from here that the really story begins. The wily and merciless Langda executes a flawless plan. Convinced by his aide Langda that Dolly has been having an affair with his lieutenant Kesu, Omkara murders her. At the sight of a dead Dolly, Langda’s wife reveals that Dolly’s affair was faked; Omkara kills himself.
Unlike other Bollywood adaptations, this film does not mellow the characters. The tragic hero is presented with all grey shades and villains with fair human emotions. Yeah it is the first film where a hero is punned for his colour–quite racist for Indian audiences! Vishal has succeeded in giving the film the Indian look without taking anything away from the play. Rustic setting, raunchy music, riveting climax, Omkara is truly head and shoulders above the usual potboilers. The treatment meted is original. The helplessness of Omkara; the innocence of Dolly; the jealousy, ambition and greed of Langda all makes you thing how beautifully Shakespeare has weaved human emotions.
The film belongs to Saif Ali. He has left Ajay Devgan miles behind who looks more of second fiddle than the protagonist to the unsung Khan. Saif’s vile manipulations, deep rotted scorn, subtle scheming, manoeuvring yet coming unscathed is treat to watch. Kareena displays her best performance till date. Ajay Devgan, for the most part looks redundant. Vivek is okay and Konkona Sen Sharma is going to win more fans with this performance.