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Maqbool: A review

Maqbool does justice to the play's essence. Bhardwaj has 'adapted' the play in the true sense of the word, without making it ludicrous in the Indian scenario.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2003 11:31 IST
Manjulaa Negi
Manjulaa Negi

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor
Rating: *** and 1/2

Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool (inspired by Bard's Macbeth) is one of those rare works which makes you want to go back to the play and look at it anew. For, to say that the film does justice to the play would be wrong. What it does justice to, is the play's essence, however. Bhardwaj has 'adapted' the play in the true sense of the word, without making it ludicrous in the Indian scenario.

With its slick editing and controlled direction Maqbool makes for worthwhile watching and is definitely in the Satya/Company league. Because it isn't a literal translation of Macbeth, Bhardwaj does not confine himself to actual incidents in the play and liberally works with characters, their behaviour patterns and even their guilt acquires its own character - as in the original.

Bhardwaj takes Macbeth from its palatial confines and turns it into an underworld drama recognizable in today's context. He leads the viewer in a guided tour of emotions - and the film works as successfully as the play in terms of universality.

Abbaji (Pankaj Kapoor), an underworld don commands his empire with a iron hand and has as his trusted lieutenant Miyan Maqbool (an Irrfan Khan playing brilliantly on subtleties). The plot to assassinate the king is instigated by his queen (in this case, a mistress played by Tabu) and having done that - the duo have to learn to live as suspects - with suspicion among their own and as guilty partners in crime.

The viewers too are become party to the crime included as they are in the action) by two corrupt cops (Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri). The latter is an amateur astrologer as well - whose predictions never go wrong. As a narrative device that could have backfired but doesn't, these predictions help the viewer prepare himself for the action ahead. So, even though he already knows the end, he waits in anticipation for the execution of it.

Bhardwaj enjoys playing on the nuances rather than the obvious and keeps his actors under complete control. While the cinematography by Hemant Chaturvedi (whose past credits include Company and Makdee) could have been more subtle (as the rest of the film) it doesn't jar, though one could avoid the awkward camera angles for the sake of being dramatic.

On the whole, Maqbool stands out as a class apart for those wanting mainstream Bollywood fare with a whole lot of difference.

First Published: Oct 13, 2003 11:12 IST