This is Vishal Bhardwaj's adaptation of Othello....a tough ask even if set in modern times...now take it a few steps (no, make that leaps) further and set it in rural india (UP / Bihar)...take actors who are suave urbanites and convincingly transform them into country bumpkins..then, maybe then you start to get an idea of the task that Mr Bhardwaj is trying to accomplish...If this was a diving competition, he would get 10 straight away for degree of difficulty !!!
Omkara (Ajay Devgan) is head hooligan (bahubali) of corrupt politician (Naseeruddin Shah) in UP...he has 2 lieutenants, Langda Tyagi (an unrecognizable Saif) and Kesu Firangi (Vivek Oberoi). Omkara and his Desdemona (a fresh faced Kareena Kapoor) fall in love and elope on the day Kareena is to get married to someone else that her father had approved of. The first seed of doubt is planted by the father : 'Jo apne baap ko thag sakti hai, woh kisi aur ki sagi kaise ho sakti hai' he tells Omkara....The rest is vintage Othello, with Saif playing Iago and ensuring none of the others have a moments peace....
A few things really stood out in this movie
- The Casting : I'm not talking here about the stars but about the extras...I don't know what Vishal and co did (hire all the Bihari's in Mumbai as extras ? Go to a UP village and lift them enmasse to the set ?) but everyone in the movie is picture perfect...right down to the goonda who frisks the cop before he can meet Omkara (hilariously executed scene) to the cop himself (who looks like the kind of guy who would get frisked) to the 'tai' whose comment when she first meets Kareena brings the house down...the people in Omkara's village etc ...everyone is faultless...picture perfect !
- The Sets : I loved the little touches of authenticity in the movie...the hand pumps, the broken down coolers and rusted drain pipes jutting out of the house...the whole surrounding, the house, the set merged beautifully in its surroundings
- The cinematography : As anyone who has visited UP / Bihar will testify, its very hard to make the countryside look beautiful...In this movie, you feel like shifting there straight away...forget Simla...next holiday Etah...The colours, the great use of sunlight really was stunning
Next we come to the stars...
I didn't like Ajay Devgan in Golmaal but here he is in his element...with his slow, measured reactions, his deadpan expression, you couldn't have asked for more. Unlike the others in the movie, who looked like they had to dress up for the part, Ajay looked like he simply went to his grandfather's cupboard and borrowed his outfits...I think after Khakee, i really liked him here...he seems to bring an air of unpredictability to his actions...A top class performance...
And that brings me to Kareena...who brings a innocent, naive beauty to her role and actually seems to fit in with the surrounding...which one would never have thought possible after watching her Pepsi TV ads...this is as far removed from her normal on-screen persona as possible and I was really impressed.
Saif was very good as well - he was brilliant in Hum Tum for me but then my perception of Saif is that he is actually like that as a person - here he looked credible again as a scheming country bumpkin and i know for sure he is not that in real life, so i give him more credit here...
Vivek Oberoi was ok - hard to say whether anyone else could've done more with the role...same for Bipasha but someone else who really caught my eye was Konkana Sharma who really infused life and energy as Indu, Langda Tyagi's wife...she was really good and i will hope she gets more opportunities to show off her talents
What would i change in the movie ? Blasphemy for some, but possibly the ending...there is a certain ponderous inevitability to the climax which possibly could've been avoided with an unexpected last-minute twist or two. And also because I, like most Indians, am a sucker for happy endings...they uplift me far more than tragic ones....I mean I still believe Sholay (one of my all time favourites) would've been a better movie if they had not killed Amitabh ! So you get the picture ?
Finally, in case you're planning to watch with kids, there is a lot of good old-fashioned Hindi abuse / crude words...but it fits really well, is not excessive and there are a couple of excellent jokes around the words !
So all in all an excellent effort from Mr Bhardwaj...can't wait to watch it again and can't wait for his next one !