This version of Othello will blow you away
nmlhats | Dallas | 08/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was our favorite Hindi film of 2006 and in fact one of our favorite films ever. Omkara is a compelling adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, with standout acting by all involved. The film is set in rural Uttar Pradesh, almost a modern "wild west" with its depiction of a hardscrabble life ruled by lawlessness and political corruption. Omkara is gripping from beginning to end as you watch Omkara's suspicion grow, fed by Langda's need for revenge. Ajay Devgan is at his smoldering best as Omkara/Othello and you will hardly recognize Saif Ali Khan in the Langda/Iago role; he excels in this villainous part, the kind of thing he does not usually play. Kudos to Kareena Kapoor as Dolly/Desdemona; she shows here what she's truly capable of-- a lot more than smooching at the camera in a romantic comedy. Bipasha Basu makes the most of her limited role in the two item numbers, both fantastic. A fairly violent flick, don't expect your stereotypical Hindi song & dance. Cinematography is magnificent. Superb music by the film's director and screenwriter Vishal Bhardwaj, a triple threat. Soundtrack CD highly recommended.Omkara - CD"
Much more than a gangster film
Ashish Kumar | Singapore | 01/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Films like Omkara make up for the tons of trash that come out of Bollywood. I can't comment on the adaptation of Othello - people I trust tell me that it is brilliant. I know the director did a magnificent job with Macbeth in the movie Maqbool, though. The performances are perfect - specially the brooding Omi and the scheming Langda. The action sequences in particular are very real and gritty. People talk they way they normally would in that setting - the dialog isn't bowdlerised. It's specially interesting to me that the director squeezed out such brilliant performances and lines from the actors, but when you see their interviews in the special features, some of them come across as the pseuds they are:) Anyway, I highly recommend this one for all audiences over fifteen."
Rootin' tootin' Shakespeare ishtyle
The Post-Punk Cinema Club | 05/10/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Vishal Bhardwaj's Bollywoodized Othello-remake, Omkara, is a strutting, masculine ride through the raunch and jealousies of men, and the havoc these men wreak on the woman who love them. More hypnotic and spacious than his previous Shakespearean joyride, the moody Maqbool, Omkara is set in the 'Wild West of India', the state of Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps Bhardwaj has a fascination with the lawless, but once again Shakespeare has been teleported into a criminal organization. This time, it's the rootin' tootin' gang of Omkara (Ajay Devgan), second banana and chief thug to Boss Bhaisaab (an eerie Naseeruddin Shah).
Omkara has two lieutenants of his own: the grimy and thick Langda (Saif Ali Khan), and the boyish and also thick Kesu (Viveik Oberoi). When Bhaisaab wins a seat in Parliament (shudder at the thought), he nominates Omkara to be official Crime Boss, leaving Omkara then to pick his General. Or Captain. Or whatever, we don't really understand the military metaphors. Anyway, if you know Shakespeare's original, you know that Omkara picks Kesu over Langda, much to Langda's chagrin. Langda then decides that the only way he can ease the pain of rejection is by destroying everything that is beautiful around him. Namely, the illicit love story between "half-caste" Omkara and his (presumably full-caste) fiancee, Dolly (Kareena Kapoor).
What follows is a train crash, protracted over nearly three hours. If you know the original, you know what to expect and, inevitably, you sit in grim anticipation as Langda manipulates Omkara's jealousies and creates an imagined world of sweaty adultery. If you've never seen the original, let's just say things don't really work out.
Ajay Devgan is stiff and lumbering as the Othello character. But he does what he's supposed to, which is smolder for two hours, and then briefly weep. Likewise Kareena Kapoor is just Holy and Spotless enough that we feel genuinely sorry for her end, even though we didn't like her throughout the film.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Omkara is how amazing Saif Ali Khan is as Iago. Iago is generally a difficult character to play; too easily he becomes a caricature of the devil, all cackles and twirling black moustaches and no depth whatsoever. What Saif manages to do, even with the prototypical Shakespearean device of a bad leg, is invest Iago with a sort of sinister depth. Here is a man who hates himself, and, by natural extension, everyone around him. We don't like Saif Ali Khan at all, or thought we didn't, but now... Hmmm. He was certainly the only one, apart from Naseer, who was willing to look positively ugly for the film, what with his yellow teeth and lurching gait. And there's a tragic undercurrent to his behavior, a genuine and justifiable pain at being the loyal servant too-often overlooked.
*Review originally published at the Post-Punk Cinema Club."