Thursday, August 16, 2018

Omkara — Othello, Indian-style

Half-caste bandit Omkara Shukla abducts his lady love, Dolly Mishra, from her family. Thanks to his cleverness, he gets away with the kidnapping. A conspiracy, however, forms against him when he denies his right-hand man, Langda Tyagi, a promotion. Ultimately, this plot threatens not only his relationship with Dolly, but their lives and those of their associates as well.
This is a simply wonderful Indian film adaptation of Othello as a gangster story. Not only is the film pretty faithful to the story and to the Indian environment in Uttar Pradesh, but the acting, shots and production were arresting. If you've seen it, I'm thinking especially of a particular shot in the rain in front of the train and, of course, the film's last shot. I also loved the use of specific color associations with specific characters. (Hint - in India, the color for marriage is red.)

It is, as the film says, an adaptation, but often there were lines that seemed almost lifted directly from the original. This line, in particular, was key to this production.
Shakespeare/Desdemona's father: "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father and may thee."

Omkara/Dolly's father: "The girl who can betray her own father, how can she be trusted by anyone else."
We were especially interested to see Saif Ali Khan's take on Iago since he first came to our attention as a lovable rogue in Tashan. Khan gave an impressive portrayal of a man consumed by envy and evil. He's truly versatile.

It's Bollywood so of course there are a couple of song and dance numbers but they are worked in realistically as Kesu's (Cassio's) girlfriend is an entertainer whose performances provide key moments for the story's action.

Vishal Bhardwa is a director I will be looking for more from. I'm especially eager to see his adaptations of Macbeth and Hamlet.

Rating — for advanced viewers. (You've got to be willing to let this one wash over you, enjoying the ride for what it is ... and that means you've got to have seen enough other Indian movies to not worry about some dead space or romantic side trips. Or gangster shootings ... )

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