Omkara (an Indian Othello)

Vivek Oberoi as Kesu (Cassio) & Saif Ali Khan as Langda (Iago)

After listening to this year’s Warwick Arts Centre sponsored Shakespeare on Screen Film Talk in which Tony Howard from the Dept of English at the University of Warwick explored the history of William Shakespeare’s Othello in the cinema,  I’ve attended a screening, of Omkara Vishal Bharadwaj’s  interesting cinematic reworking of the play as a drama set in a province of northern India run by corrupt politicians and gangsters.……         ………………………… Vivek Oberoi Kesu (Cassio)……………………………………… ……………  ………… Saif Ali Khan Langda (Iago)

In his Observer review, the film critic Philip French says that Bharadwaj ‘has made a fair fist of transposing Othello to present-day India’. I’d be inclined to disagree only in that I would have said he made more than a a rather good fist of managing the transposition.

What this director has done is many ways is pretty remarkable. He has convincingly welded what we have come to think of as the Bollywood style movie, with its obligatory and crowd-pleasing song and dance sequences, to the kind of muscular crime dramas that Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarintino make, with the result that what we see on the screen is a surprisingly effective film that should appeal to cinemagoers for whom the Bollywood fare, in the normal run of things, would have little appeal. This is a film that will repay two or three viewings on its own terms.

Forget that Shakespeare is the source. This is a rollicking good drama set in a region of the world with which most of us are unfamiliar.

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