I have finally forgiven Vishal Bharadwaj for making Omkara.
The reason I was so disappointed with the man was because I so admired him. Because he had made a perfect gem in Maqbool. So it was a big disillusionment when Omkara turned out melodramatic and commercial. I should have expected it, with the stars it had, instead of actors like Irrfan and Pankaj Kapoor in Maqbool. Yet, with my reverence for Vishal Bharadwaj, I had hoped against my reason. And came away disappointed at the histrionics that stopped short of acting, the melodrama that stopped short of feeling, the hype that overshadowed the story.
And then one day I played the music of Omkara in a few leisure moments at home – obviously whatever objections I have to the movie do not extend to the music. As I heard a beautiful, unfamiliar voice sing, I picked up the cassette cover to discover the singer. I saw that it was Bharadwaj himself. And was floored by the amazing talent of the man.
As his mesmerising voice mellowed my feelings, I reminded myself that Omkara had enjoyed a success Maqbool could never aspire to. It not only earned a lot of money, but also a great deal of critical acclaim. In fact, I haven’t yet heard an unfavourable word about the movie: you’d think the Guy and I were the only people who were disappointed in it.
Why should I be angry with Vishal Bharadwaj for making a movie that was a success by every parameter? Why should I criticise him for wanting to be successful? After all, Omkara earned him the recognition his earlier movies never had. Why should I grudge him that? Why should I blame him for giving people what they want? After all, no one seemed to have liked Maqbool as much as I had. I had watched thunderstruck as it unfolded on the screen, thinking more than once, “Shakespeare would have smiled.” It seemed to have captured the spirit while casually discarding the body of Macbeth. It is only if you are acquainted with the play that you can truly appreciate the movie. Omkara, in contrast, felt like a laboured translation for minds that would never meet the original.
And then maybe, just maybe, he knew very well he was doing. Maybe he was cocking a snook at all of us, deliberately making a movie that everyone would praise, and laughing in his sleeve all the while. Maybe he wanted to direct "stars", most of who never got much further from acting themselves, and make a movie that was talked about. Maybe he is laughing at us all the while. I would be happier if I could believe that.
I still wish Omkara had been able to measure up to Maqbool. I still wish it had been a piece of art rather than a popular movie. I compare it with the subtlety of Maqbool and the delightfulness of Makdee, and grieve that he is more likely to be known as the maker of Omkara than of the other two.
But I forgive him. An artist too needs money to live and create with, and praise to live on. If making an Omkara allows him to live another day and make another Maqbool, so be it. If it is a price he is willing to pay, why should I complain? After all, he made an Omkara, not a Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham or even a Corporate. I was disappointed in Omkara because it was his movie – if Karan Johar had made it, I would have called it brilliant.
So I forgive Vishal Bharadwaj. Because his voice moved me. Because he makes beautiful music. Because however many popular movies he makes, he has given me one Maqbool.