The fact that Vishal Bhardwaj has a special relationship with Shakespeare is well known. He has made three films based on the plays written by Shakespeare—Maqbool (based on Macbeth), Omkara (based on Othello), and Haider (based on Hamlet). The strong leading women characters in the three films, namely Nimmi (Tabu), Dolly (Kareena Kapoor), and Ghazala (Tabu), are uniquely compelling in their own way. There is a kind of perceived duality in his female characters, and Bhardwaj uses certain symbolic elements, particularly in Omkara and Haider, to accentuate their mysticism and enigma.
script as well as the subtitles translate this as, "May you never forget the two-faced monster a woman is. She who can dupe her own father will never be anyone’s to claim." It is noteworthy that 'two-faced monster' is used to describe Dolly. When Raghunath says this, he is looking at Dolly, who is seen standing behind the tinted glass of his car. Just like Raghunath comes in the way of Dolly and Omkara in the scene, the same words would later come in the way of Omkara's ability to trust Dolly. Dolly's father germinated the idea of her untrustworthiness in Omkara's mind at that moment. Omkara will later look at Dolly through the tinted views of her father. He would see two faces of Dolly, and is not sure which one is her true one—the one that loves him, or the one that is having an affair with Kesu (Vivek Oberoi) behind his back. In fact, at a later point in the film, Omkara jokes about the two faces of Dolly when he tells her, "Ya toh tu bahut badi lool hai ya bahut badi chudail." Whenever he looks at her, there is a thought that crosses his mind that either she is a fool to fall in love with a man like him, or she is a witch who does black magic beneath the veneer of her beauty. When Omkara kills Dolly, he says the same words, "Tariya charitra."
In addition, we see that Dolly's father uses the word thag to describe her. Thag means to deceive or to dupe someone. This thagna is also used in the song Naina Thag Lenge where the lyrics say that one must never trust his eyes, as they will eventually con him. Looks are often deceptive, and what appears to be true is quite different from what is actually true. At a later stage in the film, Omkara questions Langda (Saif Ali Khan) on the verisimilitude of his account of Dolly's relationship with Kesu. He is suspicious that whatever Langda tells him about the stories of Kesu and Dolly, there is never any third person present to validate Langda's words. He feels doubtful of Langda because whenever he looks into Dolly’s eyes, he only sees the love for him and Langda's account of Dolly and Kesu's affair sounds crooked to him. Teri saari Ramayan kapat lage hai mujhe. Langda plays his cards and manipulates people to convince Omkara of Dolly's infidelity. Omkara was, thus, unable trust the love that he saw for him in Dolly's eyes, and kills her because one must never trust the eyes as naina thag lenge.
opines, "In Omkara, however, there is a deliberate and intriguing physical disconnection of the two main characters. On some level, the spatial disorientation is enhanced by a swing in motion. The separation through the use of the swing also has a pronounced effect in representing the disparity between the castes of the two characters. Dolly, who is a Brahmin, is elevated even in death while her halfcaste husband languishes below her. Bringing the caste disparity to the fore in the last scene, Bhardwaj highlights the suppression experienced due to the insecurity that arises as a result of the caste system."
Vishal Bhardwaj makes a similar comparison of this perceived duality of the woman in Haider as well. Like the two faces of Dolly in Omkara, Ghazala was also shown to have two faces. At one point in the film, Ghazala walks into her old house that was destroyed by the Indian Army to meet her son Haider (Shahid Kapoor). When she enters the house, there is a broken mirror on the wall, and in that mirror, we can see two faces of her. On seeing her mother, Haider remarks, "Do chehre hain aapke. Yeh baayein vala masoom hai, ye daayein vala chor" She has two faces literally in the scene, and metaphorically in the film. There is something mysterious about Ghazala that throughout the film we are not sure whether she was complicit in the murder of her husband or was she only a victim. In the beginning of the film, she is teaching a poem on house—What is a home? It is brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers, it is unselfishly acts (sic) and kindly sharing, and showing your loved ones you are always caring—perhaps, pointing to the unhappiness in her marriage because her husband was always busy and she said that had no wajood in his life, so, sometimes, we wonder if she was a victim as well. We also see that she is sleeping in the same bed with Khurram, and we wonder if she did something terrible, too.
Curtains in Omkara and HaiderWe don't see an explicit mention of the two faces of Nimmi in Maqbool. But there are shades of duality in her character, too, as Baradwaj Rangan eloquently puts it here, "When Abbaji begins to shower attention on another coquette, when Nimmi realises her days as mistress are numbered, she garlands herself, like a sacrificial goat, and asks Maqbool to kill her—or kill Abbaji. At times like these, it’s difficult to discern if Nimmi truly loves Maqbool, or if he is, to her, merely a weak-willed instrument of redemption."
Godaan by Munshi PremchandBook Recommendation:
Shakespeare's Othello because a post on Shakespeare will be incomplete without mentioning his writing.
1. On Haider—Link
2. On Omkara's script—Link
3. On the Sacred and the Profane in Omkara—Link
4. On the Constrained Women in Omkara: Marriage, Mythology, and Movies—Link
"Chaand jab aadha ho jaave hai na, toh bhi chaand hi kehlave hai."