I'm beginning to worry that there is an inverse relationship between the quality of a movie and my ability to write about it. Abby and I just finished Omkara and I cannot think of much I feel the need to express. If you've seen it, you know it's great in a variety of obvious and subtle ways. And that once again Saif Ali Khan is exceptionally impressive - I can't believe this is the same guy I just saw in Main Khiladi Tu Anari, you know? - although everyone in this was stellar. (Though maybe it's not fair to single him out and Iago is just one of those roles that gets all the attention? )
Like Bandit Queen yesterday, I especially liked all the details in the sets that made this look like a very pragmatic, everyday world in which people take care of business, and even though they wield control and intimidation they're not decadent or excessive in most aspects of their lives. I certainly don't know what everyday life in UP looks like, but I did see a lot that looked familiar to me from my time spent staring out of bus and train windows this summer. This isn't the world of Sarkar or Maqbool, or even K3G, for example, where the powerful and rich are visibly so (although maybe that's because this was in a less urban setting). Also, most emotions were played close to the chest and contained until the very end - no histrionics or trauma-drama here. (I'm drawing a difference between expressing emotions and acting on them, the latter of which happened all the time, of course.) What I mean to get at by all this is that I think the relatable visuals drew me into the story more than I might have been otherwise, based as it was on people making bad decisions in skimpy context, a story arc that usually annoys me (see also K3G). As much as I tend to enjoy Bollywood's big and bold emotions, they wouldn't have worked here.
Three little quibbles, though.
- Bipasha's songs felt completely out of place, not so much for their purpose in the story (and not because of her or what she was wearing or singing) but in the way they were set up and filmed or something. I've got zero filmmaking knowledge but both of these struck me as incongruous - and this coming from someone who now takes as completely normal that people might burst into song and dance no matter what's going on. The rest of the music was woven into the general fabric of the movie much more effectively and subtly, and I thought the transitions into her numbers were awkward and the picturizations a tad overly happy-dancey in the otherwise stable look of the film.
- There isn't much overt character development. I felt left to infer a lot of motivations; that wasn't hard or unpleasant to do, but I felt that all I know is that Omkara reacts strongly to things most of the time, Kesu is generally good-natured (within his violent and sketchy world, anyway) and malleable, and Langda is jealous. Nobody here does much communicating, do they?
- If that waistband meant so much to Omkara, why in the world didn't he notice its absence immediately after it fell off when they were cuddling and cooing and hold-me-tight-ing? It was clearly absent from her light-colored clothing - and, even sillier, his hands were on her waist multiple times. That was just stupid. I was also surprised she didn't notice it, as it looked pretty heavy, and that Indu, as Omkara's sister, didn't recognize this "family heirloom" when she found it outside and that she left it in the hands of someone for whom it was clearly not meant.* A lot of plot and evidence depended on that waistband, and I didn't think it added up very well.
* Update to post (January 19, 2007): thanks to comments - and no thanks to the subtitles - I now understand Indu is not in fact Omkara's actual sister and that it's just a friendly term. Sorry about that!