Vishal Bhardwaj is in the mood to celebrate. Not just because his latest film, Omkara, is defying trade predictions by romping past the Rs 30 crore mark in a week, but also because the day we meet is his birthday. We are in his Oshiwara office and Bhardwaj is heading out for his birthday party in Lonavala where, among others, his guru Sultan Khan is also expected.
The accolades are still pouring in for Omkara (Shekhar Kapur calls to congratulate him during this interview) but Bhardwaj is also bemused by negativity towards the film from certain ranks. The music composer and director (Maqbool, Makdee) speaks about his critically-acclaimed adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello.
How aware are you of your audience while making a film?
As a filmmaker you just make films. Once they are released they are in the public domain. I rarely worry about critics or the reaction of the masses. Yet while making the film I am aware that money must be recovered for the producer and that makes one a little anxious. You also know that going ahead you need more money to expand your own vision.
The accolades are still pouring in for Omkara
Did you think the language would affect people so much?
Omkara is a shocking film, not just for the expletives but also the story and treatment. With the language I was just being honest to the story. In UP everybody – men and women – talk like this. And there is sexual implication in everything the gangsters say, which is actually quite funny. I wanted to make a film where you actually feel like you are sitting among those people. The language is the soul of the film. Even our censors have come of age and did not ask for any cuts (the film has an A certificate).
Gulzar saab was my barometer for gauging the film's impact and he said this film is so real, it bites. I too feel a film should shake you up. Our society is hypocritical – we can hear gaalis in other languages, but not in our own.
There are suggestions that people might be out to sabotage Omkara. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. But I don't know by whom. I believe in human beings and I don't think we have many Iagos in our lives. But I don't under stand why some news papers are harping on what the trade thinks rather than what people think. We live in a democra cy. A film is made and released. Then it's up to the people to watch it or not, like it or dislike it. As long as I am honest to what I feel, and the film is honest, it will show. Maqbool was hardly promoted or written about but it grew on word-of-mouth. It took months to become a cult favourite. Omkara has been far more lauded.
Shakespeare is alien to the mainstream audience, which is also wary of weak heroes.
I don't think Shakespeare alienated audiences. Those unaware of his writing were curious about Saif's look etc. Those familiar with Shakespeare were curious to see Othello's adaptation. It was only a benefit, especially overseas. I've not presented the film as a piece of literature but as an entertainer. As for weak heroes, Omi is not as weak as Othello. While Othello blindly follows Iago, Omi is suspicious of Langda and confronts him later. In the story, our hero dies after killing the heroine. Plus we have humour, song and dance. I feel that's a big achievement for mainstream cinema. It would be very easy for me to make a Raj/ Rahul/ Switzerland/ happy ending film, but I'd rather take risks. We need a spectrum of cinema otherwise we will continue to be a joke globally.
The music is doing well too, but the title song seemed underutilised.
Music should be an integral part of the basic film, that's why I used Omkara like that. Originally the victory song was meant to come in after the fight, but I felt it would add extra flab. I like the contradiction of the fight and the celebratory song as they are juxtaposed now.