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The film Omkara, the 2006 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello transplants and updates the play to a world of gangster and politicians in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Although Bhardwaj stays true to the essential elements and the basic storyline he merely transports the action from Venice and Cyprus to a rural Indian setting. Instead of a dark and alienated Moorish general among Italians, mighty Othello is now Omkara, a half-caste rabble rouser and gangster in the employ of the local leader, the parliamentary candidate Bhai-saab.
Here Omkara opens with Langda Tyagi( who is playing the part of Iago) warning Rajju( Roderigo of the play) that his fianc?e Dolly taking the role of Desdemona is being abducted by the powerful Omkara. This follows with Dolly’s father who is a lawyer confronting Omkara in full rage being informed by Rajju of the mishap but this confrontation is intervened by a phone call of Bhai Saab, the parliamentary candidate whose words are respected by all.
The use of modern day object- the mobile is a new introduction added to the film along with very many subplots, yet the base of the film copies all that from Othello. Then the well-known Bhai-Saab comes to the aid of Omi( Omkara in short) and of the devastated father. He asked the views of the victim, a painted victim Dolly to tell the truth of the inescapable incident which her father tells the Bhai Saab to be an act of sorcery on the part of Omi.
But to the father’s distress Dolly reveals it to be true love and says that she “cannot live without Omi”. Now leaving this love story aside for a moment the film focusses on the upcoming event of election, it shows some murders being performed on the part of Bhai Saab’s party and some blackmailing along with the ongoing romance between Omi and Dolly and their planning for their marriage. Although in the play Shakespeare did not give much emphasis and just that on the part of Othello he orders the Cyprus and its people to enjoy for winning from Turks with having to engage in war and for his recent nuptials held with Desdemona. But the movie shows an enhanced description of the marriage being held and performed following Hindu rituals and traditions. There is an elaborate show of Dolly and Omi’s Haldi and mehendi functions. And also Bhardwaj to present the upcoming tragedy upon Dolly he also adds the element of an unlucky or ‘amangal’ thing during the haldi session when a snake falls of in the bowl where the sacred haldi was kept. Such things occur during the later part of the play. In the middle there is the recasting of the famous episode when instead of making Iago his lieutenant Othello makes Cassio in the play. In the film there is some additions and reshaping of this event. The movie shows a scene where Omi, Kesu( Cassio), Langda and Bhai Saab are sitting in a temple round a sacramental fire led by a priest or ‘Brahmin’, Brahmin by quoting some religious quotes offers Bhai- Saab a plate of sindoor, from which he smears sindoor on Omi’s forehead and gives him the plate to make the next ‘Bahubali’ after him by smearing the sindoor on either Langda or Kesu. Omi prefers Kesu the Firangi for the sake that Langa being his so called brother the local support before the election will remain the same as earlier but by making Kesu, who has newly come to the area, they will be able to get the support of all of Kesu’s followers as well. Vishal Bhardwaj now shows Langda Tyagi’s extreme anger by an episode which is a popular Bollywood convention to show one’s extreme rage when Langda smashes his hand in an mirror and colours his forehead red with his blood promising himself to take revenge of this ingratitude on the part of Omi and to get appointed to the post of Bahubali by hook or by crook. From this point, Langda systematically, according to his plan manipulates Kesu, Rajju and Omi for his selfish cause. Langda’s part on encouraging Indu to steal the kamarbandh that Omi gave to Dolly is to some extent similar to the basic storyline is in the play, but in the play instead of kamarbandh there is the mention of a handkerchief, which Othello kept with care and gifted to Desdemona, his first gift to her while Omi gifts its equivalent the ‘kamarbandh’ to Dolly after their elopement. The scene of Billo dancing after Kesu’s appointment in an item song is a sort of Bollywood intervention in reproducing Shakespeare’s Othello. This performance is also added by Bhardwaj to make adjustment to show the fighting of Kesu and Rajju and Kesu’s hurting of another fellow as a solid and rational one included in the organic unity of different scenes in the film. This is done on the other hand by Iago on encouraging Kesu to drink, as Iago did with Cassio instead of Kesu’s repeated saying that this is the one thing on which he can have no control. Following the trend of the play, Kesu is suspended for rising a duel. But Kesu’s part on requesting Dolly to pledge on behalf of him is again a wonderful Indian adaptation of the producer. Dolly asks Kesu to teach her an English song with which she will woo Omi, as a lover. This was instead suggested by Langda himself. This Kesu does, but while Omi returning from an official affair recognize the sound of Kesu’s scooter and asked Langda what may be the reason for his coming despite of his warning, to this Langda takes his chance and inflicts upon Omi that what may be the reason on Kesu’s part, being a handsome young man to visit the lonely lady, Dolly. And this Langda continues to inflict upon Omi repeatedly. Being frustrated Omi warns Langda to give him proof of the supposed suspicious illicit love relation between Dolly and Kesu before his marriage. And to proof it Langda gives the kamarbandh od Dolly that he made his wife to steal to Kesu who on the other hand gifts it to Billo, his beloved. On the dance performance of Billo in the place where Omi is to murder Bhai Saab’s opponent he sees it and being made confirmed afterwards of Billo being Kesu’s constant lover, in rage Omi kills Dolly on their very first night after marriage. There are several changes on the part of the producer to make the film acquainted in the Indian setting and make it appear real to the people. Thus in the end Bhardwaj follows Shakespeare where Omi after knowing the actual truth through Indu, Langda’s wife kills himself. Kesu is devastated at last being in ignorance till then that he was the supposed reason for Langda’s evil initiative and of Dolly’s death committed by Omi, a god like figure to him. The very famous dialogue of the film is ” Bahubali aurat ke tariya charitro ko mat bhulna, Jo larki apne baap ko thag sakti hai who kisi aur ki sagi kya hogi”, based on the famous dialogue on the part of Desdemona’s father Brabantio to Othello, ” Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see./ She has deceiv’d her father, and may thee.” Most of the dialogues very well follows Shakespeare’s but they are being remade in order to suit the situations of the film and to remain contemporary to the audience who will be watching the film.
Vishal Bhardwaj rethought Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a new way and presented it as a struggle for power within the hierarchy of an organized criminal group in Mumbai in his film Maqbool. Although the film remains true to the theme of the play yet it presents it in a different setting amongst different sort of people rather than royal kingdom of Scotland and its king and soldiers. The tale of Maqbool of twenty-first century is symptomatic of Indian society where sly politicians and shrewd policemen render a state’s law machinery into a den of horrific violence. The plot of Macbeth is set in the Elizabethan period displaying the royalty of Scotland under Duncan. The story revolves around the treachery of a valiant general, Macbeth who became a victim of selfish ambitions and designs to gain more power. Initially although he was an honest kinsmen, he met three witches in the play on his way back from the battle with the Norwegians. The witches prophesized that he would be given the honor of Thane of Cawdor and Glamis and added that he would instead become the king himself in future. The sayings of the witches appeared true as two men sent by the king tells of the supposed honor that the king conferred upon him as true as being commenced by the witches. These prophecies then meddled with his na?ve self and gave him the hope that he might actually become king one day. Consumed by personal dreams and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the Scottish throne for himself. He is then wrecked with guilt and paranoia. He is then bound to commit more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. He soon is seen by everyone as a tyrannical ruler. The bloodbath in committing murders swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into realms of madness. Lady Macbeth dies committing suicide while Macbeth is killed in civil war raised by his own generals and son of Duncan with the help of England’s king and soldiers. Keeping the main substance of the play intact, while presenting it in an Indian scenario, Bhardwaj himself says that:
“Inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it is a gripping film that re-examines
life and its dilemmas. It is about choice and consequences. It is set in the
real world of real people. Maqbool says that wrong and greed lead to downfall.”
In the film the royal acclaim of Scotland is reduced to Mumbai underworld section. And instead of King Duncan there is the head of the mafia, the Abbaji or Jahangir Khan under which works Maqbool, loyal follower of Abbaji who possessed all the traits of Macbeth of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. The film begins with the two policemen murdering a ruffian belonging to another group of mafia. They also cast horoscopes on the upcoming situations on Mumbai. They tell that Maqbool will rise to the position of Abbaji, which at the very first appeared silly to Maqbool. But soon he came to realize that all the things that came out of the mouth of the pandit who is also a policemen turned out to be the absolute truth. Now it seems that sometimes the thought of becoming the leader comes to his mind but yet he dominates it thinking it to be a mere falsity and also he believes it to be impossible considering that Abbaji is ruling still. But, as the selfish impulse was made strong in Macbeth by his wife, here in the film it is the mistress of Abbaji who inflicts it in Maqbool. Moreover the two are having an illicit affair, where Nimmi the mistress of Abbaji feels that it is only Maqbool who can shower some respect on her in the society through their marriage as Abbaji will one day or other dismiss her whenever he sees a more attractive and beautiful woman than her. So Nimmi always wanted her beloved to have a good position within their organization. The affair between the two is shown more accurately in Nimmi’s sacrificial walk in barefoot to a sacred place of Muslim Community, during which instead of Abbaji Maqbool accompanies her and takes her care in the way, during the presentation of which a romantic song is played in the background. The story than takes a different turn although the storyline is being intact. Nimmi then sees that Abbaji’s daughter Sameera is getting more and more attached to Guddu, the son of another loyal follower of Abbaji. Nimmi worries that if by chance Guddu and Abbaji’s daughter’s relationship is accepted, her dream to see Maqbool in a better position and to be his wife will indeed remain a dream. Because Guddu will be given the post that at that time Abbaji was holding for he has no son, Guddu being his son-in-law. Thus she instigates a thought repeatedly in Maqbool and that is that he will have to work under Guddu. This rouses the sensibilities in Maqbool and he finally decides to get access to Abbaji’s position. But he is not finding a way to get into it. To this Nimmi advises to kill Abbaji who is instead a father-like figure to him, who raised him from his childhood. But Nimmi describes to him how misfortunate she is in having been forced to offer her body to a man who is of her father’s age. This instead increases his desire to kill him and instead he does this heinous crime by plotting with Nimmi just after Guddu and Sameera’s engagement so that no talk of ascension to the most desired position is discussed, that is to offer it to Guddu after Abbaji as he has no son, his property will be accessed by his son-in-law only at any cause. The decoration of the place where the ‘rouka’ is to take place is synonymous to Indian marriage conventions of whatever religion one belongs to. And Maqbool himself engaging in the cooking of dishes is just to avoid any suspicion on him by others on the crime that he is to commit at that very night. And like Macbeth, Maqbool gains Abbaji’s position. But soon after he finds that Kaka seems to find some clue of Maqbool’s involvement in the death of their Abbaji and turns to put a deaf ear to all of Maqbool’s urgings to him. Kaka started to keep himself confided within his Bunglow and not focus on their work and also paid no heed on how their gang is working after Abbaji’s death. And soon it is found that Kaka is killed and the Guddu ran away to escape his life. And cunningly enough like Macbeth Maqbool also puts the blame on the son for the father’s death. And vey soon the audiences sees that the madness of Macbeth comes down on Maqbool as well. The banquet scene in the play which succumbs to show the growing madness of Macbeth, this very idea of Macbeth obtaining insanity is reproduced in a scene where when dead body of Kaka is kept before him Maqbool shrieks fearing the corpse’s opening eyes which only he saw and none of the others see. Nimmi realizing his absurd behavior to be an outcome of fear of the committed crime calms him down. Soon after Maqbool’s wife attains pregnancy over which both of which has doubt whether the child is of Abbaji’s or of Maqbool’s. These are additional events which has no link to the source play. These are adaptations. The film itself is an adaptation with the main plot of the protagonist’s selfish desires leading to his ruin keeps both the play and the film connected. These changes are indeed due to results of social interpretations.
Gradually Nimmi’s attains madness. She sees blood stains everywhere. And as a physician attends Lady Macbeth, Nimmi is also attended but not on being attaining insanity but for being pregnant and also for remaining depressed. But very soon Nimmi is brought back keeping the baby in the hospital. Nimmi then acts as complete mad, rubbing her face repeatedly on seeing invisible blood stains on it and washes away the walls of her room. Abbaji’s blood splashes over Nimmi who like Lady Macbeth, her Shakespearean counterpart become increasingly obsessed with blood. Coming of the Birnam Wood is shown by coming of threat to Maqbool through sea route. The danger is none other but an honest police officer bringing troops to curb away the underworld society in Mumbai. Although he planned to fly away to another place, before leaving Nimmi dies off and while wasting time in emotional indulgences the police force enters his house but with the help of the two corrupt policemen, he escapes from the mansion. And while he enters the hospital to take his baby with him, he sees Abbaji’s daughter holding the baby with Guddu standing next to her. To save himself he left without seeing them, but he is being shot at by a man while he was trying to escape from the hospital unnoticed. Thus like Macbeth, Maqbool is also dead. This death is caused by themselves. Greed for excess has led both the protagonist to get this fatal fate. The story of Maqbool turns away to a different segment, in an Indian land without any king ruling, there is a presentation of a contemporary and modern country India with one of its city being the centre of underworld and other mafia groups. Bhardwaj decorates the film by incorporating popular Bollywood conventions such as family scenes of festivity and weddings, catchy music, dances and songs. Anthony Davies describes Macbeth as a complex study in character, as one who is “human in his reflections and inhumane in his actions”. Vishal Bhardwaj succeeds in projecting this contradiction in his direction of Maqbool. In his adaptation of the play Macbeth, Bhardwaj in Maqbool’s ascension to power is threatened by the dangerous passion evolving between Abbaji’s legitimate daughter Sameera and her lover Guddu, the son of a Hindu Brahman Kaka, the domination of Hindu power and the issue of legitimacy subverts the onscreen supremacy of both characters and actors.
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