Sunday, August 27, 2006

Where Do Ideas Come From ?

Recently I read Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography where came across a very nice but small passage about ideas. Surprisingly, in the entire book, he doesn’t talk much about the process of movie making. He says that people asked him several times, as to from where did he get all the ideas to make movies. But he never had a satisfactory answer to that.

He says that ideas come from this deep and intense desire to have them. A mind with such a desire keeps searching for events that could provoke imagination. Later, things like music or sunset could give shape to ideas. He advises to pick up a provoking theme and expand it by getting involved in it. If, you can’t expand it then leave it and look for another theme. A good process to get what you want is one, which involves throwing off something from what we have accumulated.

However, he is the most impressive, when he says that ideas come from patience, until the stage of madness. Man should be able to bear pain as well as retain enthusiasm for a long time.
Well, most of what I have written here, we have heard elsewhere in one form or the other. The only reason, why I wanted to share this is because, it comes from one of the most creative geniuses of the human history. Economics tells us that access to unique information creates an advantage. But advancement in technology has nullified this information advantage. It’s hard to retain unique information about anything. Hence, the unique source of advantage now, is idea. This is where most of us are struggling. Be it movies, literature or business. Being original is the biggest challenge. The fastfood lifestyle has actually diminished our patience. Hence, reliance on sequels, imitations, copies, adaptations. The key to victory is, patience, until madness

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Omkara - Indian Othello

I saw Omkara. I wanted to watch it because it is based on Shakespeare’s Othello. I wanted to watch Othello because, my father used to play ‘Othello’ in his college days. I have seen his photographs as Othello, standing next to the dead body of Desdemona. So I have a special emotional attachment with this story.

Omkara is so widely reviewed that writing a review on Omkara is a futile exercise. Unfortunately in Spain, neither Hollywood nor bollywood movies get released first. Hence, I am generally late in watching and reviewing both of them. These days, Indian blogosphere is so active that if you don’t write a review within 60 hours of the movie’s release, you find it difficult to write anything. (60 hours because, laterst people watch the movie by Sunday last show and post the review by morning). A lot has been written about this movie’s music, direction, language (cuss words) etc. so I won’t talk about them.

Omkara is adaptation of Othello. Omkara Shukla (Ajay Devgan) is a Bahubali, a right hand of a politician Bhaisahab (Naseeruddin Shah) somewhere in hindi belt of north India. In the beginning of the movie he elopes with beutiful Dolly (Kareena Kapoor). After some time, when he promoted the political hierarchy, he appoints, Kesu Firangi (Vivek Oberoy) as his successor instead of Langda Tyagi (Saif Ali Khan), who had been faithfully working with him for about fifteen years. Tyagi, smitten with jealousy and vengeance spins a plot wherein he convinces Omkara that his beloved Dolly has an affair with Kesu. The end is tragic. Between these characters a very important character is that of Indu (Konkona Sen Sharma), who in the end reveals the truth to Omkara. But it’s too late! Needless to say, Omkara is Othello, Dolly is Desdemona, Kesu is Cassio and Langda Tyagi is Iago while Indu is Emilia.

I liked Omkara for various reasons. Mainly for the adaptation which takes care of the smallest possible detail. E.g. Shakespeare’s Othello was dark skinned and here Ajay Devgan, not only has a darker complexion, he is always wearing dark. To highlight the contrast between his dark skin and Dolly’s fair complexion, some nice dialogues have been delivered through Indu. Where she teases the couple saying, “ koyle ke lote me doodh”. Othello also pointed at unfortunate termination of an interracial affair. Othello was a black moor (Moors are Arabs who ruled southern Europe in medieval times). An effeminate element of Saif’s personality comes out when he puts the cumurbund on his head or when he is shown polishing his nails. This fits very well with some of the interpretations of the character which say that Iago had an effeminate element and he secretly loved Othello.

I must say casting was superb. Especially casting Saif Ali Khan as Iago is a master stroke. His face, his physique and make up unthinkably fit well with the character. i fail to understand, why this character has been compared with Gabbar Singh of Sholay. Gabbar Singh of Sholay was a dacoit. Here, Langda Tyagi is involved in anti-social activities, but in the context of the movie, he is simply a jealous human being, who wants to avenge injustice caused to him. Cinematography of the movie, was of course comparable to Sholay. No other movie except Sholay has captured vast arid planes of northern India more beautifully on celluloid. The other interesting element in cinematography was use of colours and shades to suit the mood and characteristic of the characters. E.g. in most of the scenes of Omkara, you see dark shades and use of dark colours implying evil and pessimism While most of the scenes of Tyagi, come with green and dark green shades, to reveal his jealousy and evil intentions.

Still, I thought that there was a lapse in development of characters of Omkara (Ajay Devgan) and Kesu (Vivek Oberoy). In Othello, Othello was a moor and dark skinned and hence, he had all the reasons to believe that Desdemona (here Dolly) could be attracted towards Cassio, a white European. However, here I didn’t see a big contrast between the characters of Omkara and Kesu. Kesu is shown to be someone having educated in a college and someone who speaks English. However, otherwise Kesu’s character is shown to be so subdued that this subtle contrast doesn’t make such a big difference as it does in Shakespeare’s Othello.

So far acting is concerned; Saif Ali Khan is a clear winner. Iago’s character is one of the most celebrated characters and Saif has grabbed this opportunity with both hands. I also believe that Kareena kapoor has given her career best performance here. Othello is a very complicated character, so is Omkara. But Ajay Devgan does it with excellent ease. After giving an award winning performance as Bhagatsingh, the actor has been growing each day. I felt sorry for Vivek Oberoy. After a long time he got to work in a strong movie. But unfortunately his character is completely overshadowed by other strong characters and performances. On the other hand Konkona Sen Sharma doesn’t have to worry about length of her role. Her screen time is probably the least among all lead actors, still, she leaves an unforgettable impact on the movie. The ease and grace with which she does her part, puts her in the league of actresses like Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil.

It is said that who ever plays Iago does well in acting career. What happened to Othello and Iago of my father’s play? Well, Othello, my father, is a retired bank executive today. And Iago, is a successful politician! Didn’t I tell you, whoever does Iago, does well in a career in acting!