"Saif has eaten the whole film," gushed a fellow viewer as the credits list rolled down. It was a poignant site to see the standing audience to stay where they were and register who did what. For a first day first show in a premier multiplex in Mumbai (In spite of the rains) the numbers were surprisingly overwhelming. Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Omkara' certainly lived up to the audience expectations as well leaving them with the expression: Wow-what-was-that! For, the narrative of this adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello is a unique interspersing of Hollywood Western with a flavour of Shekhar Kapoor's 'Bandit Queen'. I completely agree with the viewer who seemed heartily impressed with Saif Ali Khan. His nasty act is as memorable as Gabbar Singh. If he wins a National Award for this one, I would say he deserves it ('Hum Tum' was more of a mother's gift Saifu, wouldn't you agree!).
Omkara Shukla (Othello, Ajay Devgan) is a dreaded gangster-cum-henchman of a notorious politician Bhaisahab (Duke, Naseeruddin Shah). His two most trusted sleuths Langda Tyagi (Iago, Saif Ali Khan) and Kesu Firangi (Cassio, Viveik Oberoi) are willing to do anything for him. They spoil the marriage party of Rajju (Roderigo, Deepak Dobriyal) with Dolly (Desdemona, Kareena Kapoor) as she has confessed her love for Omi. Bhaisahab forces Dolly's father to bless the two lovers. Omi is a terribly focused individual who climbs the stairs of success. The conflict starts when Omi selects Keshu as his successor (Bahubali), leaving long time lieutenant Langda outraged. His wounds are pricked by Rajju challenging him to do something about his sorry plight in spite of years of loyalty.
Langda starts plotting Kesu's downfall by planting seeds of doubt in Omkara's mind about Dolly's alleged love affair with Kesu. In a masterstroke he uses the village heartthrob Billo Chaman Bahar (Bianca, Bipasha Basu) by scripting situations that enrages her lover Kesu. Bahubali Kesu, a teetotaler gets drunk on repeated provocation and the ruckus caused by him results in differences between the master and the pupil. The hanky of Othello is replaced by a traditional 'Kamarband' that Omi gifts Dolly. Langda's wife Indu (Emelia, Konkana Sen Sharma) steals the gift of love as her husband had always urged her to do the same. How Tyagi uses this article of faith in hitting the nail in the Coffin of Trust forms the crux of the story.
Vishal Bharadwaj, the captain of the ship knows precisely what he is doing. The poetic visuals, the dangerous power of jealousy, conviction in the actions of every character and to have the capability to understand the darker side of love makes him seem like a seasoned campaigner in his merely fourth outing as a director (The Blue Umbrella is yet to be released). The master stroke was reserved for the last where he conveys an entire situation through gestures and a matrix of simple dissolves. His choice of cinematographer in Tasadduq Hussain (Debuting with this film) shows his visionary bent of mind. For, the earthen, desert-sand-looking-colour of the entire film makes it an absolute visual treat. The camera at many an occasion doesn't aim for a perfect shot. It just veers around from nowhere and shocks with the possibilities. Even the love making scene between Kareena and Ajay is smeared with a lot of dignity.
Music by Vishal is a rare collection of dazzling compositions. All the songs are brilliantly produced and entrance for their sheer originality and entertainment value. 'O Saathi Re', 'Omkara'. 'Beedi Jalaiye Le', 'Lakad' and 'Namak' are first rate. You can include the rest of them in favourites list as well. Gulzar's lyrics are expectedly gut-wrenchingly-exciting. When I started searching for the credits of Dialogue writer then the name of Vishal Bharadwaj surprised me. For the man is too smooth to have written the excessive expletives with such