One can understand the exuberance of Vishal Bharadwaj and the ones who (mis)managed the publicity for Omkara that caused them to play up the Othello angle.

Mismanaged because by simply calling Omkara an adaptation of Othello, they are doing a great disservice to the multi-talented Mr Bharadwaj. Yes, it is a great juxtaposition of that great Shakespearean tragedy into the rough and tumble of politics in Western UP. One appreciates the cleverness of the character names – so that Othello becomes Omkara, Desdemona transforms into Dolly and so on.

But what this over-emphasis on Othello does is to totally undersell the ability of a great director to interweave every possible element of a masala Hindi movie into a gripping, blink-and-you-miss-something narrative. The music (by Vishal Bharadwaj himself) is epic in its own right, and Gulzar’s lyrics are brilliant as always. The dark light effects, the sweeping panoramas, and the mercilessly coarse and blistering dialogues all contribute to the making of one of the great Hindi movies of our generation. Bipasha Basu’s beautiful cameo with Beedi Jalaile ranks along with Aishwarya Rai’s Kajra Re from Bunty aur Babli and Rekha’s Kaisi Paheli Zindagani (Parineeta) as one of the great “item numbers” in Hindi movies.

Kareena Kapoor is adequate as Dolly, Viveik Oberoi looks his part (though his histrionic limitations come forth in the more dramatic scenes, of which there are many), but the 3 I would pay to see again and again are Ajay Devgun as Omkara (and to think that the first time I went to see a movie starring this worthy – Jigar – I actually walked out 45 minutes into the film), Saif Ali Khan in the much-appreciated role of Langda Tyagi and Konkona Sen Sharma as Indu Tyagi.

Superb movie – and not surprisingly not a great success at the Box Office. I am sure in the years to come, like Guru Dutt’s Kagaz Ke Phool, Omkara will be pulled up for reference as one of the great movies in Bollywood history.

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