Saturday, January 13, 2007

Omkara

(Note: I've never read Othello and haven't seen it for ages, so some of my comments are uninformed. C'est la vie.)

I'm beginning to worry that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of a movie and my ability to write about it. Abby and I just finished Omkara and I cannot think of much I feel the need to express. If you've seen it, you know it's great in a variety of obvious and subtle ways. And that once again Saif Ali Khan is exceptionally impressive - I can't believe this is the same guy I just saw in Main Khiladi Tu Anari, you know? - although everyone in this was stellar. (Though maybe it's not fair to single him out and Iago is just one of those roles that gets all the attention? )

Like Bandit Queen yesterday, I especially liked all the details in the sets that made this look like a very pragmatic, everyday world in which people take care of business, and even though they wield control and intimidation they're not decadent or excessive in most aspects of their lives. I certainly don't know what everyday life in UP looks like, but I did see a lot that looked familiar to me from my time spent staring out of bus and train windows this summer. This isn't the world of Sarkar or Maqbool, or even K3G, for example, where the powerful and rich are visibly so (although maybe that's because this was in a less urban setting). Also, most emotions were played close to the chest and contained until the very end - no histrionics or trauma-drama here. (I'm drawing a difference between expressing emotions and acting on them, the latter of which happened all the time, of course.) What I mean to get at by all this is that I think the relatable visuals drew me into the story more than I might have been otherwise, based as it was on people making bad decisions in skimpy context, a story arc that usually annoys me (see also K3G). As much as I tend to enjoy Bollywood's big and bold emotions, they wouldn't have worked here.

Three little quibbles, though.

  • Bipasha's songs felt completely out of place, not so much for their purpose in the story (and not because of her or what she was wearing or singing) but in the way they were set up and filmed or something. I've got zero filmmaking knowledge but both of these struck me as incongruous - and this coming from someone who now takes as completely normal that people might burst into song and dance no matter what's going on. The rest of the music was woven into the general fabric of the movie much more effectively and subtly, and I thought the transitions into her numbers were awkward and the picturizations a tad overly happy-dancey in the otherwise stable look of the film.
  • There isn't much overt character development. I felt left to infer a lot of motivations; that wasn't hard or unpleasant to do, but I felt that all I know is that Omkara reacts strongly to things most of the time, Kesu is generally good-natured (within his violent and sketchy world, anyway) and malleable, and Langda is jealous. Nobody here does much communicating, do they?
  • If that waistband meant so much to Omkara, why in the world didn't he notice its absence immediately after it fell off when they were cuddling and cooing and hold-me-tight-ing? It was clearly absent from her light-colored clothing - and, even sillier, his hands were on her waist multiple times. That was just stupid. I was also surprised she didn't notice it, as it looked pretty heavy, and that Indu, as Omkara's sister, didn't recognize this "family heirloom" when she found it outside and that she left it in the hands of someone for whom it was clearly not meant.* A lot of plot and evidence depended on that waistband, and I didn't think it added up very well.
Anyway, see it, if just for Saif. But you knew that already.

* Update to post (January 19, 2007): thanks to comments - and no thanks to the subtitles - I now understand Indu is not in fact Omkara's actual sister and that it's just a friendly term. Sorry about that!

5 comments:

Cs said...

I'm pretty sure Indu and Omkara aren't siblings. They're affectionately calling each other brother and sister (because of Langda and Omi being really close I guess, which is one of the reasons Langda is so completely pissed off when the 'job' goes to that newcomer Kesu) but no real familiar relationship there.

I didn't really like Omkara as much as I thought I would. Seemed like a bunch of good looking and great acted scenes put after each other with lots of coincidences trying to tying them together. Especially loved Langda when he realizes that Kesu has been chosen instead of him. Best acted scene of 2006 for me.

Sharon said...

The music is just haunting. I can't hear 'jag ja' without getting all teary-eyed. The lone exception would be Bipasha's second song, which left me cold.

The acting, all-round, was really quite good. Honestly, if this had been the first Kareena Kapoor movie I'd ever seen, instead of KKKG, I think I'd like her a lot more as an actress.

(and here I am writing my own mini-review!) it is a bit of a downer, though, especially with the sound of that swing rocking through the end credits. creepy!

Dushyant said...

Indu is just 'called' sister of Omi.. She was not the sibling..

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h n said...

Interestint that you critisize the dance numbers - i thought that rarely dance numbers have been woven so nicely into a movie's story.

I also thought that the story has some slight implausibilites - slightly flawing the movie, even more so as much of the rest is so brillant.

Watching the movie, i never understood that Indu is supposed to be Omkara's real sister. When watching the movie without that information, i was baffled about the closeness between the two. It certainly makes sense to assume they are siblings, otherwise their relation seems a tad to close for a conservative rural environment.

My biggest quibble though is the bird dropping the snake into the milk-pot next to the bride - far too melodramatic. No idea if that is taken from the Othello-original, but it betrays the movie's otherwise relatively realistic feel.