Friday, May 23, 2008
A reading break with Omkara.
Filmiholic made me aware of a little book called Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief by Stephen Alter, a fantastic little inside look at the Hindi film industry as well as a making of the Vishal Bharadwaj film Omkara. It's fun read all around, and more than anything else, I love getting a true behind-the-scenes look at how the film came into being.
Omkara is not a film I've rewatched countless times. I adore it to pieces and it is among my favourites, easily, but as far as rewatching goes, the film is a little difficult to approach. Whereas most Hindi films will provide some sort of an emotional rollercoaster for their viewers, this adaptation of the Shakespeare play Othello is a tragedy by nature. It overwhelms me every time I see it.
The emotional turmoil this movie puts me through almost makes me wish it wasn't so good. Because that's truly what Omkara is, an all-around well-crafted movie, whether it's direction, music, script or cinematography. Alter's book made me feel like I was on set, and I especially enjoyed reading about the work of the director of photography, Tassaduq Hussein. Every frame of the film seems so carefully and beautifully composed, I was amazed that anything on a crappy Eros DVD could look so good (and the DVD surely could be better). The look and costumes of the actors is toned down and naturalistic, and the setting is a plain Uttar Pradesh village, but regardless the movie looks beautiful.
I followed the news around the movie prior to its release, and reading the book I was once again reminded by the articles that floated around as they were filming. It is somewhat ironic that the reports circulated around hair length of the current hot star couple, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Saif had been hesitant to cut his hair for the role of the villain, Langda, whereas Kareena had incredibly long hair. The reason why it amuses me now is because while these superficial things were reported maniacally by the press - the only news items of any interest about the upcoming movie - the actors were working on some of their career's best work. Saif is unlikely to get as deeply involved with a role as he did with Langda (though we can hope), and I am sure I'm not the only one who Kareena won over with her perfectly innocent, naive Dolly, who loves selflessly until the end.
Of course Alter's book delves deeper, and it helps that Omkara truly has a world of its own, with its director's stamp all over it, from the setting to the language (not your standard Hindi/Urdu/English filmi lingo, but UP slang with crude expressions that these political mobsters surely would use). I like the notion that women get bigger roles than in the Shakespeare original, it seems very true. Perhaps the least grateful female part falls on Bipasha Basu's Billo, a dancer and girlfriend of Kesu (Vivek Oberoi), and even she has plenty of character. I would elaborate more, but there are simply too many things to cover; so many scenes I'd want to point out, so many details to mention.
So I guess if you have not seen it yet, do! It's a powerful adaptation that stands on its own, and a perfect mix of off-beat and masala; fantastic songs and popular actors in interesting roles. And if for nothing else, watch it for the following gorgeous pictures.
(I have way too many screencaps for this movie. I feel like I've screencapped every frame, nearly.)