Monday, September 24, 2007

Omkara by Vishal Bhardwaj

Vishal Bhardwaj's second movie on a Shakespeare play is named Omkara (after Othello), the first one was Maqbool (after Macbeth). Many movie critics in India have praised the movie for its excellent adaptation and for the outstanding performances.

I beg to differ.

I think despite the hard work put in by the director and the actors, the movie is still a mediocre production by global standards.

Acting: In Indian movies, intense facial expressions and tightening of muscles is considered great acting. Most Indian film critics have no exposure to great cinema and they contrast and compare movies within the realm of Bollywood. Saif Ali Khan's acting is above average but it is not outstanding. Ajay Devgan always has a scowl on his face, as if he is perenially constipated. Kareena Kapoor looks too angelic to be believable. Naseerudin Shah and Konkana Sen Sharma act naturally but their screen time is very limited.

Casting: Casting is a disaster. Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi are just not suited for a movie in an Indian village setting. Kareena Kapoor's skin tone and facial features are anything but those of a typical UP woman. Vivek Oberoi looks foppish with his hairstyle and college-graduate modernity. Bipasha Basu, the less said, the better. Manoj Bajpai would have been a great choice. Naseerudin Shah and Konkana Sen are cast well.

Direction: There is no need to show so many scenes of pistol-whipped violence. The first fight involving a bet seems to glorify Omkara's brutality with chants of his name in the background when his opponents have been killed. Most of these scenes just contain a lot of loud gun-shots with pistols in outstretched arms and clumsy running around. There is not one, but two gratuitous item numbers which are in no way connected to the storyline. There are way too many obscenities being mouthed by everybody (just to show that the director is being radical, but expletives do not make a movie radical). Needless to say, understatement and subtlety is not the forte of Vishal Bhardwaj.

Actors seem bent upon showing their sculputed muscles (can you believe anyone in rural Uttar Pradesh having shaved chests and chiseled biceps? In a Salman Khan-esque touch, both Saif Khan and Vivek Oberoi perenially keep their sleeves rolled at least 6 inches above the elbow to show off their work-outs. The concept of making one's body look like one's character is not a very acceptable notion in Indian movies, it seems). The real musclemen of UP are well-built, tall, with oiled muscles and just in case you missed, they don't wear Timberland shoes. I would have been pleasantly surprised with the director had Kareena Kapoor's face after her death been shown as contorted (as is to be expected after a death by asphyxation) but I guess that was too much to ask. She is as angelic as ever.

Storyline and Treatment: The story is implausible. The reason given as to why Kesu is chosen as the new commander (that he has more rapport with the college crowd) is flimsy, especially since we don't see any urbanity or college kids in the movie. The character of Omkara seems to be oblivious to the grievance of Langda and doesn't see anything wrong in his simplistic conspiracy. There are not a few implausible coincidences. A very valuable piece of jewelery is easily stolen by someone and not noticed, the thief doesn't ask her husband/lover why he needs it, Kesu loses his mobile phone very conveniently on the day where it would be handy to his opponents, and worst of all, there is an extremely misinterpretation-friendly conversation between Kesu and his beloved on the D-day.

Many characters are caricatures. The effeminate sidekick, the old woman wearing a denture, etc. are there to amuse the audience, and their dialogue delivery is calculated to achieve comic relief. There are many scenes where the government machinery is shown to be impotent (the police being strip-searched, the train TTE, the jail staff having a rowdy time) and the applause of the audience at such scenes only goes to show their bitterness towards the system.

Songs and music: Song and dance sequences are overly long and it is evident they are to attract the average movie goer.

Recommendation: Average.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After reading the review I wonder what good cinema the critic is exposed to.