Shakespeare's Othello has been made numerous times by Hollywood. However Vishal Bharadwaj's Bollywood adaptation, Omkara, sees the play brought to life for the first time in a mainstream Hindi format. Set in the lawless political terrain of Uttar Pradesh, Ajay Devgan's Othello and Kareena Kapoor's Desdemona play out the tragedy of one man's descent into sexual jealousy towards the woman he loves. While oozing quality individual performances from a star cast and fantastic cinematography, the drama somehow fails to engage on an emotional level.
Omkara (Devgan) is a gifted chieftain who heads a gang of outlaws, including the crafty Langda Tyagi (Saif Ali Khan) and the dynamic Kesu (Vivek Oberoi). The action begins when Omkara appoints Kesu and not Langda as his chief lieutenant. Raging with envy Langda hatches a plot to falsely implicate Omkara's beautiful wife Dolly (Kapoor) in a love affair with his favourite deputy. With the unwitting aid of his wife Indu (Konkona Sen Sharma), Langda's plan takes shape. It grows into a horrific tragedy, whose build-up is unnecessarily leisurely but ultimately more interesting than the end result.
"FAILS TO ENGAGE ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL"
Having already adapted Macbeth as the critically acclaimed Maqbool, Bharadwaj's fascination with Shakespearean drama is evident and his Othello stays true to the play's central plot. By colouring the Bard's characters with the folklore and ethnic charm necessary for a contemporary Indian milieu, he manages to create a film that is both stunning and realistic. It's just a shame that the magnificent pairing of Khan's reptilian villain and Sharma's feisty partner overshadows the Devgan and Kapoor double act. For it is the screen chemistry between this supporting couple that actually steals the limelight from under the leads' noses.
In Hindi with subtitles.