12 Years of Omkara: How a Play About Race Became a Critique of Toxic Masculinity

Bollywood

12 Years of Omkara: How a Play About Race Became a Critique of Toxic Masculinity

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

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here’s a reason why Vishal Bhardwaj is considered a master when it comes to telling stories on the big screen: The director’s genius lies in his astute understanding of the complexities of human nature. It’s this precise quality that has aided him in adapting three Shakespearean tragedies set in different parts of medieval Europe to modern India in a way that all their elements seamlessly transform into visual poetry. He’s also one of those directors who doesn’t just stay faithful to his source material, but also gives it a contemporary twist rooted in the Indian milieu. Like Othello, who transformed into Omkara, in a film that turns 12 today.

A tragic tale of love and jealousy, Shakespeare’s Othello, is coloured by its titular protagonist’s insecurities. Othello was a “Moor”, a disparaging term used to describe dark-skinned or African Muslim people in medieval Europe. Several times during the course of the play, Othello’s complexion is brought up and it’s this innate inferiority complex that makes Othello a victim of manipulation by his ensign, Iago.

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