The Genius of Vishal BhardwajJan 23, 2011 Shrey Khetarpal
He is a composer, a playback singer, a writer, a producer and a director; he excels in all these fields and is amongst the finest filmmakers in the country today.
He has directed five brilliant films and his sixth one, 7 Khoon Maaf is already creating a lot of excitement in the filmy circles. He is Vishal Bhardwaj who has made delightful children’s films like Makdee and The Blue Umbrella and films that delve into the dark human emotions such as Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey.
His adaptations of Shakespeare and Ruskin Bond have opened doors for more literary adaptations in the Hindi film industry. His musical compositions mean different sounds, unusual playback combinations and haunting melodies. The genius of Vishal Bhardwaj has not yet been fully discovered by the Indian film industry and something tells me that soon the whole world will sit and take notice of this brilliant filmmaker.
Here’s a look at his directorial ventures that have helped redefine Bollywood in the last decade...
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Makdee - A children’s film with a simple story line and a message – if you are naughty and you lie; nobody believes and helps you when you’re in trouble.
Released in 2002, when not many films for kids were being made, Makdee was a brave attempt by Vishal. Shabana Azmi as Makdee the witch was probably the only big name in the film and actually looked the part. He was able to extract a fine performance by the film’s child lead, Shweta Prasad who went on to win a National Award for best child artiste.
A few years later, films for children became a popular genre with biggies like Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn producing big-budget children’s films. But credit goes to Vishal for making Makdee when there wasn’t much money to be made in this genre.
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Maqbool - After a film for children, Vishal sprung a surprise with Maqbool in 2004. Adapted from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Maqbool was set against the backdrop of the Mumbai underworld. It was dark, it was sinister and it was stunning.
With stellar performances by Pankaj Kapur, Tabu and Irrfan Khan, Maqbool is amongst the finest Hindi films of last decade. However, it proved to be too dark and niche for the masses and did not attain the commercial success it deserved. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is where Pankaj Kapur’s character, Abbaji, an underworld don kisses his mistress, Nimmi’s injured (Tabu) foot, while the other man, Miyan Maqbool (Irrfan) she is seducing watches on. That scene, says a lot about the characters and their motives as well as about Vishal the story-teller.
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Omkara - Mounted on a large scale with an enviable ensemble cast, Omkara was Vishal’s second Shakespearean adaptation. This version of Othello was set in the law-less villages in Uttar Pradesh.
With stars like Kareena Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Viveik Oberoi, Konkona Sen Sharma and Bipasha Basu, Vishal could have attempted to reach a wider audience with a U/A rating but he stayed true to his vision and got an ‘adult’ certificate from the Censor Board thanks to the abusive language in the film. Though the strong language in UP’s Khari Boli dialect raised many eye-brows, it made the film appear realistic and our stars appear more believable.
A suave Saif Ali Khan turned into the conniving Langda Tyagi; Kareena went de-glam to become Dolly Mishra and the intellectual Konkona sat down to make dung cakes as Indu... Vishal’s characterization and ability to make his actors deliver their best worked very well for most of the cast as they went on to win a number of awards. This was the first time; Vishal had a front row seat at the Bollywood award ceremonies as he gained acceptance as a mainstream filmmaker and not an art-house director.
After Omkara, Vishal appeared on all top actors’ wish list to work with and despite the film’s luke-warm box office performance he was now a hot-shot filmmaker.
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The Blue Umbrella - From international film festivals, glittering award ceremonies and A-list stars for Omkara, Vishal once again returned with a small and beautiful children’s film called The Blue Umbrella in 2007.
Based on Ruskin Bond’s novella of the same name, the film once again proved his versatility as a director and screen-writer. Set in a small village in Himachal Pradesh, the film revolves around a young girl, Biniya (Shreya Sharma) who gets a blue Japanese umbrella from a tourist. Jealous of Biniya’s popularity, the village’s rich yet stingy shopkeeper, Nandkishore (Pankaj Kapur) plots to steal the umbrella.
The Blue Umbrella proved that Vishal is not lost in his new found mainstream Bollywood popularity and is willing to go back to where he started if the subject demands it.
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Kaminey - With a title like that, a sizzling pair of actors (Shahid Kapur and Priyanka Chopra) and super hit music, Kaminey became one of the most anticipated films of 2009 soon after the promos hit the TV screens.
It was a fast paced caper that had oodles of attitude. It catapulted Shahid Kapur in the ‘best actor’ awards category and introduced superior acting talent like Chandan Roy Sanyal and Amol Gupte to Hindi cinema. About twin brothers, one who lisps and the other who stutters, Kaminey was a landmark film that was wild by Bollywood standards in every department; from a song about using condoms to speech impaired lead characters to a diabetic villain, Kaminey was a complete surprise package.
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7 Khoon Maaf - Unusual is probably the word that can best describe Vishal’s choice of film subjects; from lost umbrellas to underworld dons to a murderous woman in search of love.
7 Khoon Maaf is based on Ruskin Bond’s Sussanna’s Seven Husbands, which is about a woman who kills her seven husbands (though there is a bit of confusion on this as the film’s official synopsis sort of reveals that only six die). Vishal has chosen the talented Priyanka Chopra to play Sussanna and has paired her opposite an assortment of actors including Naseeruddin Shah, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Annu Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Russian actor Aleksandr Dyachenko and Naseer’s son Vivaan Shah. The film looks very interesting and Vishal’s music is haunting and powerful as usual.
I have great expectations from the film and going by Vishal’s track record, we may have to forgive him for killing other films this year.
It is also said that he will make a film called Dream Sequence or Dreams that is on the lines of Inception and a film with Shah Rukh Khan based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel, 2 States. It would be interesting to see him pair with SRK and make a regular Bollywood film, or he may just spring another surprise.
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