Wednesday, December 05, 2007

RealCinema: Omkara

I am a sucker for realism and detail in cinema. On the other hand, I love fantastic films. What turns me off, though, is the host of movies that lie in the middle which aspire to portray real life but with sub-real filmmaking skills or simply lack of intentions. Shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that I end up watching very few movies in sum, having had my fingers burnt too many times venturing out with movie lulled by false expectations.

The downside of avoiding movies en masse is, predictably, that a lot of the good stuff too slips through my half-hearted fingers. My complaint here is that there are very few or no sources out there to feed my fetish, i.e., point me right to the "real" movies. I patronise review-vendors like RottenTomatoes, but with little success. Make no mistake - there is plenty of fine cinema being produced, but its just not for me.

So here, in my own little corner of the world, I will post tips of any nuggets that I happen to stumble onto. I will gauge these by parameters that have been subconscious so far, so bear with me; essentially, the evaluation will be based on the richness of the reality and detail depicted in the movie. Here it rolls:

Omkara

Overall RealRatingTM : 8/10

Locations: 9/10
Wherever it was shot, the depiction of rural environs is superb in the movie. Especially when it comes from an industry where the norm is to produce a idealized, sterile, and unconvincing version of the Indian hinterland (eg, Lagaan). The detailing of locale is rich even otherwise. Pay special attention to one small sequence where an injured Ajay Devgan knocks on Kareena Kapoor's door and is tended by her. The house, with its elaborate name plate and stained walls, is a detailer's delight!

Casting: 9/10
Devgan, Naseerudding Shah and Co. all fit into their jobs perfectly. But the sweetest surprise comes from Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Saif, who plays a loathful goonda, looks uncannily real. Kareena doesn't have a "perfect" face from the standpoint of our contemporary sensibilities, but it is this very imperfection that makes her so real as Dolly in Omkara. The -1 in the rating is because of Bipasha Basu, who didnt quite fit in her role here.

Language: 9/10
I have no clue if the dialect/accent that most characters carry in the movie is authentic and where it is geographically sited, but it is obvious that someone has taken great pains to make sure it looks authentic! It is a far cry from the cookie-cutter gaon-ki-boli that most rural characters speak in Bollywood. The c- and b-words peppered through the movie add to the authenticity of the exchanges.

Political Realism: 10/10
This is not the first movie to highlight the power of students in UP (and consequently, national) politics or the prevalence of a gun-culture there. But it surely does a beautiful job of both...so much so, that some might be inclined to take is as an exageration, when it is not. During one of my past lives, I shared quarters with a young man from Varanasi (I think thats where Omkara is set, given the reference to "Mall Road" in one of the scenes with Oberoi and Basu) with an interesting past as a student "activist". With the same casualness as I talked about my pencils and calculators, he used to mention his 'samaan' (firearm) that he had, regretfully, used a bit too often during his student days.

Drawbacks: The couple of item numbers that blight the movie.

Endnote: I was trying to find where the film was actually set and googled it a bit. I ran into quiet a few reviews of the movie. Nearly all of them made a huuuuge deal of the fact that it is based on William Shakespeare's Othello. Fuckit, I say. There are some things that we need to grow out of...

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