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Vishal isn't done with the Bard

Bhardwaj talks to Saibal Chatterjee of his obsession with Shakespearean literature and his film, Omkara.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 20:23 IST

Music composer turned film director Vishal Bhardwaj isn’t likely to abandon his passion for the Bard anytime soon. As he readies his Othello adaptation, Omkara, for worldwide release, the critically acclaimed filmmaker says: “William Shakespeare is a veritable treasure trove. You can take any play of his and transplant it in any culture, any language, and any ethos.”

“Shakespeare’s stories, no matter what or whom they are about,” says Bhardwaj, “are rich in universal human emotions. What make the stories particularly exciting for a filmmaker are the inner layers that exist within them.”

Maqbool, based on Macbeth, had impressed critics everywhere. Omkara, in the wake of the promotional flurry at the ongoing 59th Cannes Film Festival, has generated a fair bit of buzz. So is another Shakespeare adaptation on the way? “I would love to complete a trilogy of Shakespearean tales, but that won’t happen with my next film. I now want to do something completely different before I return to Shakespeare. I don’t want people to begin saying that I am obsessed with Shakespeare,” says Bhardwaj.

Vishal’s filmmaking career is singular in the Bollywood context because three of the four films he has crafted so far – Makdee, Maqbool, The Blue Umbrella and now Omkara – are based on literary texts. “In Mumbai people are wary of tackling literature because it is seen as too serious for the business of entertainment,” says the filmmaker, who wants to see Omkara to achieve as much domestic box office success as critical acclaim on the global festival circuit.

The possibility of Omkara travelling to either Locarno or Venice is pretty strong. Several other festivals have evinced an interest in the film. The all-India release of the film is scheduled for July 28.

Bhardwaj is confident of the success of Omkara. “It is a big, star-studded film with loads of energy and drama,” he says. Part of his faith in the prospects of this film of course stems from the fact that Omkara is Ajay Devgan’s home production and the star-actor is bound to go all out to push it.

That is something that sadly did not happen with the superbly made and acted Maqbool. “Maqbool,” says Bhardwaj, “deserved much better positioning than it got.”

Apart from the small Maharashtra town of Wai, where Bhardwaj’s unit erected a set for the shoot, Omkara was canned on real locations in Lucknow and Allahabad. “We shot at the Imambara in Lucknow with thousands of people looking on,” says the director. Kareena Kapoor had to ride on a rickshaw down the street. She had never been on a rickshaw before.”