Review Notes: Omkara

If you haven’t realised it already, please watch this movie and realise that popular Hindi cinema is going through a positive flux. Some of the stuff coming out these days is surprisingly innovative… and almost crossing the line to become art.

Omkara stillAlmost art… is perhaps the best way to categorise Omkara… but as popular cinema goes… it succeeds in making a difficult subject, through a difficult medium (language, style)… accessible/enjoyable… and watch-worthy.

The reason why I’m calling Omkara popular cinema and not “art” cinema… is largely because its use of “stars”.

I found it extremely difficult to differentiate Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor, Vivek Oberio… etc… from their previous on-screen avatars. They were just playing another role.

The only person who stood out as “transformed” was Saif… and while I still feel that it was not a “perfect” performance… his work in this film showed how all the actors “should” have done their roles… entirely immersed in their character.

Of course… it’s easy to play Iago… aka whateverhisnamewasinthemovie… so rather than blame the actors alone, I guess the producers of the movie must take the blame (or the credit) for making this remain “popular” cinema’s tryst with alternatives… rather than a genuine path-breaking venture.

“Omkara is a very good example of new directions in Indian cinema. It is a difficult film to watch; both for its plot and its treatment. But if we consider it within the “popular” genre, then it certainly makes for an satisfying cinematic experience.

Now to certain aspects that were truly commendable…

Firstly… the contextualisation of the Shakespearean plot. Othelo is one of my least favourite Shakespearean stories… but Omkara in its UP setting provided such a new and believable perspective… that it made me look at the age-old story with new eyes. I actually found the story gripping and would rather see Omkara than the Lawrence Olivier version (with Black paint) any day.

Secondly, (and credit to my wife for pointing this out) the Konkona Sen Sharma character of the sister-in-law… was a unique perspective in the story. Interestingly, I don’t find her kind of character in the original… but her inclusion only strengthens the story and adds a new dimension. The paisa vaisol moment were the Sita allusions she draws out when Omkara tells her about his doubts. Excellent. (of course *spoiler warning* the scene where she confesses is very weak and unbelievable)

Thirdly, the Saif’s acting. Chalo… give the man his due and accept that he should get the best villain Filmfare award. Clearly his best performance. But especially in the moment when he conflicts over his feelings of sadness/betrayal and joy. Saif’s acting, as I said earlier, is not perfect… because at some points his “star” mannerisms immerge. Especially while taking photographs… and the ending. But still… if a someone wanted an excuse to see the movie, s/he look no further.

There’s no need to delve too much in the weakness. Briefly, the stylistic narrative compromises in character development, so much so we have no idea who is related to who and how till three-fourths into the movie. Plus, that whole Bipasha Basu element, that attempts to tbe a ‘realistic’ portrayal of village performers… is extremely forced and tasteless… it lacks dusty realism… and instead has little to differentiate it from cabaret scenes from other modern-day movies. Another surprising weakness of the movie is the action (read fight) scenes. I found them weak and ununspiring. Almost as if that was not the director’s strength. This is best highlighted in the scene when Omkara etc dress as police officers. The ensuing gun battle is unclear and confusing… it doesn’t lift the audience anywhere… it only makes us scratch our heads and wonder what is going on.

On the whole… I would say that Omkara is a very good example of new directions in Indian cinema. It is a difficult film to watch; both for its plot and its treatment. But if we consider it within the “popular” genre, then it certainly makes for an satisfying cinematic experience.

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Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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