Omkara (NC)

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The Independent Culture

Is there a bard in Bhardwaj? The Hindi director seems to think so, and having adapted Macbeth, he now provides an engaging, contemporary version of Othello. It's a bit rum when Iago breaks into a song-and-dance number, or when Desdemona's murder is followed by a trilling love song, but the few Bollywood excesses are accompanied by a commendable relocation of Shakespeare's themes of cultural fear and male jealousy to their new setting.

This is the state of Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, where Omkara (Ajay Devgan), a half-caste bandit, heads a gang in the employ of a corrupt politician (Naseeruddin Shah). Having overcome prejudice and won his Dolly (Kareena Kapoor), he falls foul of his chameleon lieutenant, Lanbgda, (Saif Ali Khan, one of the best Iagos I've seen) and his own insecurities. While the milieu is Indian, Bhardwaj adds an extra, and equally valid dash of spaghetti western to the action: if this wasn't Shakespeare, it could be Sergio Leone.

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