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14 Dec 2019, Edition - 1614, Saturday

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You know you are watching a Vishal Bhardwaj film if…

Indian Express

In this chapter of our bi-weekly series ‘You know you are watching…,’ we take a look at the filmmaking style of director Vishal Bhardwaj, best known for helming films like Maqbool, Omkara, Haider and Kaminey among more. Having directed over ten films, we thought it would be interesting to spot the basic tropes of a Bhardwaj feature. Here are a few of them.

1. Realism

Vishal Bhardwaj does not prefer to dwell on fantasies. He is an artiste who is too caught up in the real world to ignore its issues. He evidently loves flawed people (cue: Haider, Maqbool, the ladies of Pataakha). Even if he is adapting a piece of literature, he modifies it to suit the context of the times we are living in. Take the Shahid Kapoor starrer Haider for instance; Haider, like Hamlet, wanted to murder his uncle. And it was also hinted implicitly in the film that he desired his beautiful mother Ghazala (played by an incredible Tabu). However, the narrative was framed in and around the socio-political fabric of Kashmir.

2. Love for literature

The man loves his words. And it’s not just that his major movies have been literary adaptations of Shakespearean dramas (Maqbool-Macbeth, Omkara-Othello and Haider-Hamlet). Even when he is producing a film, he lets the people know of his key inspirations. And celebrated lyricist-poet Gulzar is definitely one of them. In his production venture Ek Thi Daayan, lead actor Emraan Hashmi is seen singing lyrics out of a book penned by Gulzar. Also, the Priyanka Chopra starrer 7 Khoon Maaf was an adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s Susanna’s Seven Husbands.

3. Wonderful, one-of-a-kind music

Apart from being a prolific director, Vishal is also a fabulous composer. And therefore, it is no wonder that all his movies boast of an impressive soundtrack. My personal favourites are Kaminey and Omkara.

4. Dark comedy

Vishal Bhardwaj’s comedy is never on the nose. His characters might always be in some kind of soup, but the filmmaker brings in comic relief in unexpected ways. In Kaminey, the hilarity was brought in via a lisp that its primary characters had. However, it was never of the demeaning kind. It was just something Shahid Kapoor’s character had to deal with as a part of his everyday life. In Makdee, the interaction between the characters of Shweta Basu Prasad and Shabana Azmi gave way to laughter. Interestingly, Makdee was touted as a horror film with some elements of comedy.

5. Strong female characters

And this last point might be one of the most important features of a Vishal Bhardwaj directorial. The way he writes and shows his women. The central conflict in a plot arises via a woman. Be it Haider’s Ghazala, Omkara’s Dolly Mishra or 7 Khoon Maaf’s Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes. They are broken, beautiful and real. May we see more of these in times to come.

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