By The Big Movie Buff (22 Oct 2008)
Omkara is based on William Shakespeare’s 17th century classic ,”Othello”. Regarded as one of the Bard’s finest plays about the human condition, it is being brought to life in an Indian milieu for the first time in a mainstream Hindi film, by noted writer director Vishal Bhardwaj. This is his successive Shakespeare effort after the highly celebrated “Maqbool”which brought the brooding Macbeth to Indian screens a couple of years back.
Set against the milieu of political warfare in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh, Omkara follows one man’s descent into sexual jealousy and the final wreckage of his love at the altar of blind obsession. Love is blind but jealousy is even blinder and can tear apart even the strongest and bravest of warriors..
Omkara or Omi is a gifted chieftain who heads a gang of outlaws, which include the crafty Langda Tyagi and the dynamic Kesu amongst his chief cohorts. The story begins when Omi appoints Kesu and not Langda as his chief lieutenant. Langda’s pride is slighted and raging with envy, he hatches a plot to falsely implicate Omi’s beautiful fiancé Dolly, in an illicit affair with Omi’s “favourite lieutenant”, Kesu. Using petty insinuations and lies, Langda keeps poisoning Omi’s mind till one day he snaps and goes amok tearing up his secure world, leading up to a horrific tragedy at the end of which Omi realizes the backlash of his actions but is it too late…?
In the original play, Othello’s “tragic flaw” is his jealousy, his inability to take things at face value, a quality that Iago provokes to the hilt. Omkara, in spirit, stays true to that central theme and weaves all other conflicts around it. Having said that, Vishal has made the story his own and ends up humanizing Shakespeare’s characters with the necessary folklore and ethnic charm that is unique to an Indian setting.
All in all, a gripping modern day adaptation that makes this one of those rare instances of Shakespearean cinema that anyone can tune into and enjoy.