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.)


Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I might have to check this one out. I'm not as crazy about Kareena as I used to be, but she looks really lovely in the caps you posted, and that's usually all it takes to pique my interest in a movie--nice eye candy of either gender. **chuckle**

Filmi Girl said...

I just re-read the Stephen Alter book last weekend! I haven't had time for an Omkara re-watch yet, though.

I adore this movie for so many reasons.... Saif Ali Khan, Saif Ali Khan, etc. :P He really is a great actor when he puts his mind to it. I agree that he probably won't pull out another character role like Iago until he's too old to be a hero - like Anil Kapoor has been doing recently.

ajnabi said...

I need to get this book. Omkara is definitely in my Top Ten Films list, let alone Top Ten Bollywood Films list. And I know what you mean about the screencaps--I've got so many I think I could watch the movie as a slideshow. It's really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

This film is pure genius. Tragedy usually makes me run screaming, but it's so compelling I've even watched it 3 or 4 times.

It's as close to a perfect movie as it gets (IMHO)

:-) The book was good fun too!

Anonymous said...

I read Stephen Alter's book after reading Filmiholic's blog, too. Its a really interesting look into the world of Hindi movie-making with delightful asides into Bolly-trivia. I loved the movie too and need to re-watch after the the book - should be fun to remember how each scene was shot and what happened during filming! :-)

veracious said...

lapetitediva - I hope you enjoy it! It is a beautiful, well-told film so yes, well worth getting.

filmi_girl - I don't want to come off as hopelessly biased as I am a big Saif fan but yes, his performance is a huge reason why I adore the film. I am hoping he'll do more off-beat roles soon.. The commercial films he's been in as of late have been disappointing.

ajnabi - The book is very much worth getting if you love Omkara, and the price is only around 15 dollars, so it doesn't make your wallet cry that much, too. Ditto about screencaps!

memsaab - I've also watched it around that many times and it kills me a little every time. Simply incredible.

bollyviewer - I got such clear images of the scenes while reading that I really wanted to dive back into the world of this movie. It was also great to rewatch and really *know* the names on the opening credits.

h n said...

I agree with Memsaab and others here: I don't like tragedies and violent movies, but unfortunately Omkara is so terrific - and made more interesting, once you have read Alter's great little book - that you have to watch Omkara at least twice.