Saturday, August 19, 2006

Omkara and KANK: "Raja" and "rank"

Omkara: an adaptation of Othello, that borders on a literary achievement.
KANK (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna): An expensive, lavish insult to human intelligence.

Consequence or response of Indian Audience: Omkara was declared flop within a week, while KANK will create all box office records.

Lets examine them one by one first. You can, if KANK appalled you so, jump to Omkaara section by scrolling down.

Observations from KANK (my conclusions):

1) New York is even smaller than Kasauli. It has one street, where ShahRukh and Rani are bound to run into each other or their respective husbands or whoever. It has one train station, which is usually empty, one harbor (view from Jersey City) where it rains most of the time, and only people without umbrella are the dumb Indian Movie stars.

2) Karan Johar's idea of a movie involves BIG STARS, CRYING, SHOUTING, DYING, protagonists living luxurious life in New York or some foreign city, fancy clothes, highly idiotic audience, and a length that will put a television soap to shame.

3) I imagined Preity Zinta to be alright before this movie, and even remarked to my friend that she is not that fat. Next I see her dance with dozen background dancers, and my friend points out how every girl behind her was much slimmer than her. Amitabh has a stature and immense talent which can be put to waste by someone of the calibre and name as Karan Johar Only. Shah Rukh Khan needs to be told he is too old for playing both football and loverboy, and he never appears cute when he makes those faces. Rani does well to come down in my eyes as a person with mind enough to choose her movies. As actress, she does great, pocketing a fat checque, most of the footage, and all this for a role that will make every married man shiver.

4) Karan Johar loves trains. Each movie needs a train sequence. So ShahRukh must go to Toronto (from New York) in a train. He is also able to pull the chain of a New York train. Of course, this train like every other train in New York, leaves from that one station. That one station which has only the hero heroine running into each other that precisely the right time, and somehow crowds vanish before they enter the station. Why do crowds hate them, if the same crowd throngs to see the movie when it is released?

5) What is editing? What is story? Is movie a form of artistic expression? Does a reasonably successful director need to go by formula finishes, cliches, fancy package-garbage food? Are Indian audiences really this gullible? After the movie is made, is it not even shown to a single person for constructive comments? As another friend remarked, if Karan Johar lived in US, I would have sued him for mental trauma.

6) Of course Karan Johar will never read this. In his mind, he has made an awesome movie that earned him all the money that he might not have even dreamt about. Shah Rukh will imagine another Filmfare for his role and cry foul if National Award committee ignores him and Rani for nominations. The film will make more money in coming weeks, and Karan Johar will get to produce and direct more such shows. Maybe he should marry Ekta Kapoor, and I will love to see that as a reality show.

Omkara on the other hand was dubbed as too rustic, too much fowl and rustic language, and a box office failure. My take on Omkaara

1) Othello is a Shakespearian tragedy. The drama already exists, but is placed in a different time, and different space (Cyprus was it?). Vishal Bharadwaj brought the drama frame by frame into Hindi first, into Uttar Pradesh, into Indian village setting and of course, if we did not know Othello is the inspiration, we would see it as a very realistic portrayal of Indian society. In fact, a brilliant portrayal.

2) The choice of setting smells of villages. There is blood, dust, mist, love, hate, treachery, and people wear rural clothes. Words are not derived from recycled Ekta soaps, clothes not degined to dazzle, and star cast is chosen for precisely the role they are intended to play. The film in a sense is all too original to be compared to most of bullshit we are served in name of cinema. Hence it fails to fascinate an audience that runs scared of every attempt of calling to their intellectual and artistic prowess.

3) Saif Ali Khan may not have deserved the award for Hum Tum, and maybe he will not get it for Omkaara's role as Langda. As an actor, I will respect him forever in my life. His portrayal in every frame is of a despicable character (of IAGO) that he does with such finnesse that I am forced to admire him and cheer for him. (Contrast with Shah Rukh Khan, and my stomach starts to churn thinking of KANK again, and also that the latter is said to be biggest star in India).

Ajay Devagan as Othello, as Omkara, as a Moor or half-caste, has a screen presence that rocks. Even Kareena gets a pass from me, for playing the role of fair Desdemona. The old lady who comments on Kareena's complexion is my winner for the debut of the year award. If in last few years, Rani has earned all the awards and money for her roles, Konkona Sen Sharma has deserved them and more for her every role. Be it a south Indian wife, or a journalist, or a wife in unhappy matrimony or in Omkara, Langda's better half, Konkona slips into her role perfectly. She is as beautiful to look at as is her delivery as an actor. I am in love with her (for whatever that counts for). Nasserudin Shah is, was and will always be a great actor, one of the greatest we've had, and it takes him only a line or two in a movie like Omkara to let his presence be felt. Viviek (the dumbo who thinks my mispelling his name, he would get any wiser) is alright as Cassio, plays the role of Kesu Firangi alright. Bipasa sizzles! If you can show me such sizzlers in village next time, I am staying back forever.

4) The dialogues are extremely well written. Each one, whether it is a derivative of Othello or Bharadwaj's creation, is extremely well-scripted. Editing of the movie is as brilliant as is the cinematography. I think we people need to spend time on each frame, each dialogue, each aspect of the film to appreciate how much thinking, intellect, planning, creativity and heart has been put into the movie. Songs by Gulzar are like tasty icing on an already fine baked cake.

5) The movie does not pander to anyones needs. If you can't handle the language used in the dialogues here, pray, you never went to the street or college or school or villages. If you dislike tragedy, I have news for you. You life will have multiple instances that are tragic. Life is not about kuchi koo or running around trees, and is not about expensive clothes and foreign locales. Oh! the village setting does not appeal to you. Dude, more than half of our billion Indians live and die there.

6) Vishal Bharadwaj, if he reads this ever, must know that we stood up and clapped when movie ended, and even after two weeks, we are still clapping. This we might be a small number, but we are a dedicated number, rooting for you from everywhere. I have so much praise for nearly every aspect of film that I can continue typing for weeks. Your music is good too, but your screenplay and direction makes you, in books of many of us, one of the best things that happened to Bollywood, EVER.


Vivek said...


Antonio comments:
on Aug 19 2006 11:14AM
Sir G....aaapke charan kahan hain??? Awsome!

Antonio comments:
on Aug 19 2006 11:29AM

Vishal Bharadwaj, if he reads this ever, must know that we stood up and clapped when movie ended, and even after two weeks, we are still clapping. This we might be a small number, but we are a dedicated number, rooting for you from everywhere. I have so much praise for nearly every aspect of film that I can continue typing for weeks. Your music is good too, but your screenplay and direction makes you, in books of many of us, one of the best things that happened to Bollywood, EVER.

Sir now you are reading my mind

blood_lime comments:
on Aug 19 2006 12:02PM

Maybe he should marry Ekta Kapoor, and I will love to see that as a reality show.

U said it.... Goddamn knows the audience ain't the fool we want to think as they are, but sorry ...they r. As antonio said......charno ke dhul dijie janaab....apkaa piece hai lajawaab

And yeh, only big banners makes movies that bollywood loves to remember...guess Black was considered a masterpiece only because it had big names behind it. But sadly, those big banners don't make an Omkara....n that as a movielover...i pity them.

Vivek said...


Kalpana Anokhi comments:
on Aug 19 2006 12:33PM
Vivek...good review. Got to see Omkara now.

mrmulliner comments:
on Aug 19 2006 1:01PM

If ever there was a paper on which a great Indian movie story called KANK was written, one could always have found that paper in the wastepaper basket of the toilets of all the hotels and motels of third grade cities where they donot put too much emphasis on the quality of toilet papers. However, if one wanted to read the story of Omkara on one of those papers, be sure one would NEVER get it!

After a long long time (Satya, Company..) Bollywood has come out with one such movie which would liked for all times to come. Or may be would be liked more and more in future. Actors who were thoroughly disgusting till just a few years ago have become so refined in their craft that one only has great words for them. Ajai Devgan and Saif Ali Khan have given such virtuoso performance that one forgets to clap. Saif is so realisitically despicable in the movie that one keeps condemning him. Whereas Ajay Devgan does a Company once again.

Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, Page 3, Yu Hota to Kya Hota- all these movies have only demonstrated the infinite capacity this sultry actress has. She almost goes inside her character and relives it. So sublime.

Comparison between KANK and Omkara is comparison between chalk and cheese. Fully agree with the review. Infact Karan Johar should be banned from making any more movies by an Act of Parliament under article 368 so that even simple majority would not be able to override this ban!


indscribe said...

Thanks for the info. I am yet to watch either of them. Plan to see Omkara this week. Yesterday saw a 2 hr long debate (special programme of twohours) on KANK at NDTV where Barkha Dutt, Shahrukh, Karan, Shobaa De and so many chated on KANK....:)

Chay said...

Oh Vivek...

I am so glad to hear you say good things about Omkara...I have been watching the rushes on the internet and I cant wait to get my hands on the DVD...I am pretty sure I will love it!!

Karan Johar...I am amazed at how he makes so much money at the box office considering how cliched and pathetic his movies are...ITs almost like he makes them assembly line style...there are some key ingredients and every now and then he tweaks the packaging!! Very tiring!!

I do believe yours are the only reviews I am reading these days!! :-) Well witten. You are angry...for a change!! :-p which is interestingness in itself!!

But all in all Vivs...I am glad to see the new wave of movie makers in the industry. The ones that walk the contemporary middle line between purists and bakwaas generators....sort of like the bard eh!! ;-)

I am thinking of Being Cyrus now....and of course my ever fave HKA

Laters buddy...

Vivek said...


Vivek Sharma comments:
on Aug 19 2006 3:10PM
The incredible bit is that there were/are people who actually believe KANK is a great movie, and Omkara is hyped. There are people who told me KANK is realistic and Omkara is farfetched from reality. There are others who think Omkara should be dubbed into Hindi (!!!!) and some who suggested a happy ending would have helped the business.

Of course, box office numbers and Karan Johar's celebrations reflect something. I don't like it, but of course, it is easy to dismiss my opinion saying I am either too intellectual or too spiritual or too egoistic or bombastic. But given a choice I will rather be part of slain people in Hazaron Khawishein Aisi, or a protesting student in the crowd in Rang de Basanti, than be the Dev in a KANK. Shah Rukh start getting used to an idea: You SUCK As an Actor

Vivek said...


August 19, 2006
01:48 PM

Fantastic post! Loved reading your analyses on KANK and Omkara. It is such a shame but big bucks beget more bucks while creativity and uniqueness aren't given the applause and recognition they deserve.

Mayank Austen Soofi
August 19, 2006
10:18 PM

I'm willing to 'forgive'KANK. It never aspired to be a work of art and it was a film that must be enjoyed with thinking buttons switched off. It was a normal Bollywood fare and you go there fully concious of the consequences. But Omkara claimed to be a work of high asthetic sense and (to me) it was not. I found it very pretentious. Vishal Bhardwaj was in love with himself. Even his final credit appeared after a good half-hour of the film in the thundering background of a great climactic musical beat!

Vivek said...

More from desicritics

August 19, 2006
10:53 PM

I enjoyed both films. KANK could have been shorter but that can be said about almost every Bwood film, SRK could have shouted less (the angry man was a little over the top and he can emote better than that) but good for KJ for bringing up and dealing with the topic. I liked how he dealt with it for the most part but I was so not into the three year misunderstanding separation the adulterous characters go through. That was just the morality police calling.

Omkara was great. I don't know why people give KK such flack. I think she plays her characters well be they prostitutes (I loved her in Chambeli), flakes or whatever. Konkona is the new Nandita Das. Good for her but how about Bollywood directors also give other aspiring actresses who want to be involved in off kilter bollywood a chance?


Vivek Sharma
August 20, 2006
09:05 AM

If KANK was made by a small name director, it would have been rubbished as cliched. If Omkara starred Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir, it would have been an Oscar nominee from India. (Paheli got a nod ahead of Hazaron Khwaishein Aisi, among others). Mayank, I wasn't expecting miracles, for I have seen Karan Johar movies before. I just wanted to see what age and experience does to him: they seem to have made him only more unbearable.

I am amused at the title of my post, for I used Omakara and Kank: Raja and Rank for obvious rhyming. Sipahi is dull, mundane. But again, like Omkara used Hindi which must be common knowledge to us who know even the subtleties of Southern drawl in US, Yankee words, Irish idioms, and British euphemism, we fail to appreciate the spoken language of our own country. So "rank" must become "sipahi" and some people even demanded that Omkara should be dubbed into Hindi:)

Vivek said...

more from desicritics:

Mayank Austen Soofi
August 20, 2006
10:37 AM

Oh yes, Omakara should be dubbed in Hindi. For first few minutes I was just could not make out anything than the curse-words. Ha ha ha ha...

Mayank Austen Soofi
August 20, 2006

As for replacing 'rank' with 'sipahi', perhaps our slightly videsi editors confused it with angrezi waala 'Rank'. Ha ha ha ha..

August 20, 2006
12:21 PM


editors are not infallible

all you had to do was to ask

back to rank;)

Vivek Sharma
August 20, 2006
06:06 PM

Curse words are actually more common in villages than shown in the movie. And of course, I think most colleges and even high schools teach those as part of the extracurricular education.
Sipahi and Rank:) Thanks Temporal:) It is the policy of graduate students like me to hit back at editors, professors and so on, when given a chance;)

August 20, 2006
07:02 PM


come grade time this will be remembered;)

Puck said...

Include me in that small but dedicated gang of people who are applauding Vishal Bharadwaj and Omkara.
It gladdens my heart to read this post and to see KANK trashed for the designer look disaster it is!

Prashant Singh MD said...

Hey Bud, looks like you are of my frequency, I am now in US and have yet to see Omkara but I am dying to see it, the other flick i don't have the guts to digest.

Completelt agree with you that the Inidan audiences are still maturing.

Few of my favourites

Satyakam, Amar Prem, Gangajal, Love ke liye kuch bhi karega, Dacait, Tera mera saath rahe.

L.A Confedential, Last of the Mohicans, Love actually, Heat, Casino,There's Something About Mary,Blood in Blood Out.

well my eamil is

if you want to email me do so, it will be nice to exchange a few reviews.