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'No Shakespeare for 2 years'

Director Vishal Bharadwaj clarifies that Omkara is not about an underworld kingpin.
None | By Subhash K Jha (IANS), Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2006 06:51 PM IST

Vishal Bharadwaj clarifies that his third film Omkara, a crime thriller based on Shakespeare's Othello, is not about an underworld kingpin.

Bharadwaj, whose earlier Maqbool was an adaptation of Macbeth, also says that for the next two years he will stay away from Shakespeare and work on something original.

"Omkara isn't set in the underworld. It is the political mafia of Uttar Pradesh. That's a completely different world. The Mumbai underworld is an autonomous entity. But the world shown in my Othello has never been shown before," said Bharadwaj, adding that the definition of crime in Uttar Pradesh is very different from the Mumbai underworld.

"I am from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. So I know the world that my characters in my Othello inhabit. Even I used to carry a knife in college in Meerut. Street fights are common over there. Shakespeare's Othello had to be set in a violent milieu. Likewise my Omkara," Bharadwaj said.

Though he feels Indians can make Shakespearean dramas in Hindi all the time, he wants to do something original next time.

"His plays are very Indian at heart. But for now I'll do something original next. Then maybe the last of my Shakespearean trilogy. But no Shakespeare for the next two years."

Omkara, which stars Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Konkona SenSharam and Viveik Oberoi, set to release on Friday.

Excerpts:

You have completed this impossible project?

Omkara has been a one-schedule film in spite of various locations in UP and Maharashtra. I have never worked so uninterrupted for so long. But I had a lot of fun.

How much of Omkara is Shakespeare?

Shakespeare would have probably written his play the way I have made the film. I have changed all the voiceovers in the play to mobile phones.

You worked with an awesome cast. Is it a pleasant experience?

I am pleasantly surprised by everyone. There is absolutely no truth to all those stories I heard about stars. They are so focused on their work and so helpful and well prepared.

I am completely surprised by Ajay, Saif, Kareena, Konkona. They all create every nuance for their characters before coming on location. They understand the sincerity of my entire unit and work accordingly. Everyone was trying to walk that extra mile. I did not miss anyone.

Whom should you have missed?

You know the brilliant actors Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Pankaj Kapur that I worked with in Maqbool. They are all outstanding. But my cast in this film is no less committed.

The only difference is, when I was shooting with Ajay or Kareena there were 10,000 people on the road (laughs). To control the crowds was tough, yes. But the trouble is worth it.

I knew I wanted only these actors when I was writing the script. No one but Kareena could have been my Desdemona. And Ajay had to be Omkara, just as Saif had to be Langda Tyagi.

Did you have to pursue any actor?

The only actor who needed some convincing was Saif. He was reluctant about cutting his hair. I'd have never been able to make the film with his long hair. If I couldn't convince him to do something so minor like cutting his hair, how could I have convinced him to get into the character? My film will take Saif to a different level.

And Ajay?

The role was written with Ajay in mind. He may not be familiar with Shakespeare but he is familiar with its drama. In my opinion we can make Shakespearean dramas in Hindi all the time. His plays are very Indian at heart. But for now, I'll do something original next and then maybe the last of my Shakespearean trilogy. But no Shakespeare for the next two years.

Maybe because you had all the stars with you out of Mumbai. That helps?

Oh yes, it definitely helps. I have sworn never to make a film in Mumbai. If I need to locate a script in Mumbai, I immediately drop it.

Some people said Maqbool was more Ram Gopal Varma than Shakespeare.

Really? Then they don't know their Shakespeare. Maybe because the genre in Maqbool was the underworld. Ram Gopal Varma has made some remarkable underworld films. Besides them, the only notable underworld films I can think of are Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Parinda and Mahesh Manjrekar's Vaastav.

But Omkara isn't set in the underworld. It is the political mafia of Uttar Pradesh. That's a completely different world. The Mumbai underworld is an autonomous entity. But the world shown in my Othello has never been shown before.

How much research did you have to do?

I am from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. So I know the world that my characters in my Othello inhabit. In Meerut, I had a friend with whom I played cricket. After six years I came to know he was a leading don of that area and a fugitive. I was shocked.

Even I used to carry a knife in college in Meerut. Street fights are common over there. Students there have street fights about a girl who isn't even aware that they're fighting about her. Shakespeare's Othello had to be set in a violent milieu. Likewise my Omkara.

Does your film have lots of humour?

Yes, we have lots of humour. The violence in Omkara is often comic. I like doing the unexpected. And there is no fear of failure within me. I was scared during Maqbool. But it got lots of appreciation even among the intelligentsia of England. That gave me the courage and confidence to do Shakespeare again.

Hopefully my Omkara will also be appreciated. This time I am more truthful to Othello than I was to Macbeth in Maqbool.

What are your plans for Omkara?

I am not targeting it at international festivals. This film is for the Indian market. Somewhere I am disillusioned by the festival circuit. Maqbool went to all the festivals but it didn't get an overseas release. I saw how big a hit Maqbool was at international festivals. Hollywood Reporter wrote a big review.

You have made amazing headway.

It is my luck. I had offered Maqbool to Akshay Kumar. He turned it down. I made Maqbool without charging a single penny. How do you think I ran my home? I lost 12 lakhs in my first film Makdee. Let's see what happens with my Othello.

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