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Monday, July 31, 2006

Omkara meets Othello

Once there lived a band of daredevil outlaws on the outskirts of a society, far from the ordinary mortals and urbane lot.

And there was one Omkara with benign yet piercing eyes, the king among the equals.

And there was one Langda Tyagi, the menacing beast, the undeclared lieutenant, the 2nd in line, the hair to Omkara’s regime which meant terror to the area and surrounding.

And there was one Kesu Firangi, the kid among the men but no less in valor, a ladies’ man with a grin of a lover.

And all hells break loose when Omkara declares Kesu, instead Langda Tyagi, the next to wield power, unleash terror, rule the gang.

And there was one Dolly, who was Omkara’s beloved, who left her father’s house to go along with her love for Omkara.

And then there was Lagda Tyagi’s scheming mind, his instigations, his exploits of the gullible Kesu and Dolly and Omkara.

And the dénouement sees betrayal, bullets, bloodshed bringing the world of Omkara to an end.

This is the plot Shakespeare wrote a play about ages ago and this is the plot Vishal Bhardwaj decided to make a film about today. The penchant for Shakespeare’s work which Vishal carries is reflected in his work. Previously, with his protagonist Maqbool, Vishal brought alive the Macbeth and his pain to screen. And this time, he has brought Othello and Desdemona live in Indian mainland.

Based and woven loosely around Western UP’s brand of politics and consequential social turmoil, Omkara is no less than a modern day epic. And to capture it on celluloid required courage, undying determination and the flavor of the soil on your taste buds. Vishal had all three.

And he had a great cast to act upon an equally great screenplay set in the complementing milieu.

Omkara is Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan limps as Langda Tyagi. Viveik Oberoi is naive Kesu Firangi. Kareena Kapoor makes a perfect Dolly. For the first time, she impresses in a movie. Naseeruddin Shah, as flawless as ever, plays the local clout touting politician and the God Father of Omkara.

But the viewer’s delight is not the havoc langda Tyagi wreck in Omkara’s life or Dolly’s unconditional love or her grave sacrifice. Or Langda Tyagi’s betrayal fuelled by his ambition and jealousy. The viewer’s delight is the craft of Vishal Bhardwaj, the manner in which he adapted the Shakespearean tragedy into an eastern epic and pictured it in the dusty, rustic locales of the rural India, the way he got his actors act like true characters and the way in which Langda Tyagi blurts out vernacular and his mannerism reminding us of the great Gabbar Singh. But there is more to Omkara. It has Konkana Sen Sharma, playing Indu, the wife of Langda Tyagi. If Saif steals the show as Langda Tyagi, Indu is no less. She plays her character with such spontaneity that you tend to forget that she is a Bengali girl who played a Tamil woman in Mr. & Mrs. Iyyer and a page 3 journo in Page 3. She is the one to watch for.

Music for the movie has already made waves and remains people’s favorite for days now. Bipasha has a small role and two item numbers. She does what she is best at, oozing glamour. The cinematography, the screenplay, the dialogues pack together a show which sees the masters stand up and take notice. If Othello is immortal, Langda Tyagi belongs to the same clan.

Vishal has a winner as Omkara and after Maqbool he delivers much to people’s expectations. People walked in the theatre with Maqbool in mind and couldn’t leave Omkara behind when they left the hall.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Omkara – Return on the native

The one word which describes Omkara’s music is Rustic and all the 8 tracks in album live up to the word. Omkara’s music has a folk flavor, the kind of music we either listened in folk music fests or lately it has been adopted in hindi films as item numbers. Vishal himself has composed the music and while he was working on the music, he knew that only a certain genre of music would suit his film shot in a rural backdrop. He has set the milieu, the tone and hue for the music – inspired by his film. His music compliments the story. The music may not become an instant hit with the masses, a phenomenon with Himesh ‘Nasal’ Reshamiya. Instead, Omkara’s music will slowly grow on you, will remain for some time and then calmly fade away to return once again when you’d watch the movie again after few years. The music may not see a record breaking CD sale but it surely will grab your attention, if you prefer better music.

The lyrics is typical of Gulzaar, the poetry laced language of a commoner – the kind we get to hear in small towns and villages. The Kajra re effect lingers on and why not when the story demands it. Vishal has used varied singers. Omkara’s music doesn’t see much of the experimentation.

The title track Omkara sung by Sukhwinder Singh exudes the energy the story promises. It unleashes the soul of the film and you can’t stop yourself going back again to listen to it one more time. The lyric is folksy, music rustic and treatment is larger; as if Vishal painted a colossus canvas with a riot of colors. The track gives you a sneak peak into the story and raises the excitement to a level where you can’t wait to see the film.

O Saathi re is the 2nd track sung by Shreya Ghoshal and Vishal Bhardwaj. A slow number, it’s a love ballad. Classical in approach and touching the sufi territory, this one tastes different. For the first time in the album, Vishal has dropped his rustic, loud milieu and chose to subdue. The track is an amalgamation of sublime rhythm and unconventional poetry.

Beedi is a potential item number. It does to Omkara what Kajra re did to Bunty and Bubbly. The track surely would be the most popular track after the title track. Sung by Sukhwinder and Sunidhi, both known for the silken voice they render to a song. The number is charged with high energy and for the first time you don’t want to wait to see Bipasha Basu gyrate on the screen. This one sets free the riot.

Jag Ja is the 4th track and sees Suresh Wadekar handling the microphone. A lullaby, this one has beautiful imagery. It comes as a melodious change when all we can hear is noise, termed as music. Vishal does a little experimentation here with infusing classical beats with western rhythm.

Namak, the 5th track reminds us of the mujras of 70s minus the digital instruments. The rustic form is intact and you might confuse about its form as it oscillates between qwwaali and mujra. Sung by Rekha Bhardwaj and Rakesh Pandit, this one is in the league of Beedi. Rekha proves her versatility in this song as previously she mostly sang sufi ghazals.

The 6th track is Naina sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. This one’s purely sufi rendition – the lyrics, the mood, the hue; everything is laced in the sufi cult popular in Bollywood these days. The song has a tragic tint to it and acts as a prelude to what story has for us.

Rekha comes back in Laakad, the 7th track. She does a Tere Ishq Mein with this track and this time she doesn’t surprise us. She has a powerful velvet voice which is perfectly suited for numbers with sublime quality. The lyric is lofty and music is powerful mixed with the background effects.

The Tragedy of Omkara is much like denouement in the film – an instrumental piece of music, this one surely acts as a finale to the album.

Omkara as an album may not make much money but that’s not its purpose. Vishal has made music to compliment its story; not to sell it and rake moolah. The album may not be played at the clubs or discs until we see its remixed version; and if a remix version comes up, it may kill it. Omkara is a no mood album. Just push and play when you want to listen to good music. The earthy flavor reins and remains intact from the beginning till end. The music has raised expectations and now the film is very eagerly awaited.