Celebrity Interview: Omkara Director Vishal Bharadwaj ...

By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

imageMumbai, July 30 (IANS) Vishal Bharadwaj, the composer-turned-director is a nervous man these days. His latest much-hyped film "Omkara" has just released and the director says that the curiosity it has created is a little scary.

But he is quick to add that he is not overtly concerned over the money it makes. "I just want the film to make enough money to let me make another film the way I want to."

Bharadwaj has composed the music for the film inspired by Shakespeare's "Othello" himself. However, he said that it was difficult composing while hunting for shoot-locations and he had to record songs on a cell phone to do both jobs together.

"While hunting locations I recorded the songs on the phone. I recorded all the songs while travelling...in dhabas (roadside stalls) sipping tea, with a hundred things on my mind. I enjoyed the experience," Bharadwaj told IANS inan interview.

Talking about the love scene between Ajay Devgan and Kareena Kapoor, the director says that it is one of the most aesthetically done love scenes. "It's almost like watching a painting."

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What are your apprehensions about "Omkara"?

A. I feel a very positive nervousness. I'm overwhelmed by the curiosity the film has created. But I'm also scared by it. I just want the film to make enough money to let me make another film the way I want to. The publicity by my producer Kumar Mangat was beyond my expectations. It's so important for a quality product to be pitched in the right way.

Q. Gulzar Saab thinks "Omkara" is your best music score since "Maachis".

A. I agree. The sales better prove it. You know, I had to record six songs in two months. While hunting locations, I recorded the songs on my cell phone. I recorded all the songs while travelling...in dhabas (roadside stalls) sipping tea and, with a hundred things on my mind. I enjoyed the experience.

I made a very conscious effort to create mass-friendly songs. When I was writing the script of "Omkara", I made sure that all songs were written into the script. I wanted to bounce back as a music director.

Q. The love ballad "O saathi re..." is haunting.

A. That's because of the male singer (Vishal sings it himself!!). Gulzar Saab never writes more than two songs a month. For "Omkara" he wrote six songs in 45 days. For the "Bidi..." song I told him I wanted an item song bigger than "Paan khayo saiyyan hamar" and "Jhumka gira re". These were mass-oriented songs, but still so classy. Only Gulzar saab could do it.

I was ready to be thrashed by him for making such a ridiculous demand. But the very next day, he came up with the opening lines of the "Bidi..." song and recited it to me on the phone in the character Langda Tyagi's accent and voice.

Q. There was a beautiful love scene between Irrfan and Tabu in "Maqbool". Now Ajay and Kareena have done one of the best love scenes ever in "Omkara".

A. I'll have to agree with you. The love scene is very aesthetically done. It's like watching a painting. When we were all set to picturise it, we felt very awkward. After all Kareena was the youngest member of the team. So I found a way out. I rehearsed the love scenes with Ajay and Kareena with their clothes on. That not only made them comfortable with each other, it also made it more technical and cinematic.

Q. Gulzar Saab thinks that the two actors' physicality should be forgotten in a good love scene. Do you agree?

A. That's precisely what we tried to do. And Kareena supported me completely. For a man to take off his clothes is easy. But for an actress it becomes very uncomfortable unless she's made to feel at home. What's more, Kareena had to do a bare-back shot and obviously she hadn't done it before. Though she was a little nervous...But after the first shot she got up, wore her gown and went to the monitor. And she exclaimed, 'My God! This looks like a painting in motion! Let's do more'.

Q. Is it true that Kareena says she wants to be in all of your films.

A. I'm shocked by her level of commitment. Just the other day after the final prints came, I thought some of her dialogues weren't right. I called her in the evening. She left everything, drove down all the way from town just to dub those two lines. And then she said, 'If you need me tomorrow morning just call. Don't be embarrassed.' If I didn't get this kind of commitment from my actors it wouldn't have been possible for me to make "Omkara".

Q. Have you worked with a totally new crew in "Omkara"?

A. Yes. I wanted technicians who could give me all of themselves. The editor Meghna Manchanda and the cameraman Tassaduq Hussain had never done a feature film. I realised how talented these two were through just a bit of their work.Kumar Mangat and Ajay Devgan warned me - 'Be sure you want him. This is a 20-crore film.' But I wanted first-time energy.

Q. After "Maqbool", critics would say that you have compromised by signing on big stars. What do you have to say to that?

A. Not at all. I've even approached Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor for my earlier films. I always wanted to work with the right actors. And Saif Ali Khan, Kareena and Ajay are no less actors than Pankaj, Irrfan or Tabu whom I worked with in "Maqbool".

Q. Did you have to drastically change the body language of the actors for their roles?

A. One of the things I did was to get the same costume designer for all the actors. Though some actors wanted their own dress designers, I was adamant. Then I put them through acting workshops. I tried to make them as non-filmy as possible.

Q. How much have you deviated from the original "Othello" of Shakespeare?

A. I've followed the original plot very closely, though the characterisations are very different. And yes, there's a twist at the end that would make even Shakespeare sit up.

Q. Are you taking "Omkara" to your hometown Meerut, where the film is set?

A. (laughs) It's being released there. I guess they'll feel happy to see their town depicted realistically.

Q. Do you have any international plans for "Omkara"?

I'm a little disillusioned with international film festivals. "Maqbool" got a standing ovation at Berlin and Toronto, but couldn't be released internationally. I'd rather focus on audiences at home.

Q. When are you doing the third Shakespearean film?

A. Later. Now I just want to sleep for at least a week after the release of "Omkara"