Thursday, September 29, 2011
There's not much to say about Maqbool's story except that it is based on Macbeth. But what's to be said on Maqbool the film in terms of praise in words might not ever be enough.
I have personally been around when Vishal Bharadwaj was giving an interview on a radio station and on being quizzed about Shakespeare, he mentioned that it wasn't till his late teens that he first came across Shakespeare. But when he did, he realized what a master of drama the Bard was. Or in Bhardwaj's words "woh cheez kya the, humein tab pata chala..". So much so that Bhardwaj immersed himself completely in his works and took months to understand the real dramatic nuances of his plays. By the time Bhardwaj finished, he had become a true worshipper of the Bard's works. For him, adapting Shakespearean plays to the Indian context wasn't a matter of a masterstroke in the context of Indian cinema, it was simply a personal tribute to Shakespeare. He would have it no other way and it was only natural that Maqbool took shape so early in Bhardwaj's career as a director.
The setting of Maqbool is Bombay where Abbaji (Pankaj Kapoor) rules the grimy underworld and his clutches stretch from Bollywood to murky dealings in real estate. His Man Friday is Maqbool (Irrfan Khan) whom Abbaji trusts blindly little realizing that Abbaji's young wife Nimmi (Tabu) has taken a liking to Maqbool himself. Abbaji is old, pot-bellied and stubborn in his own ways and these are traits that Nimmi doesn't quite take to but has to bear with. Maqbool's shadow-like presence in Abbaji's life is a pleasant distraction for her and she wants Maqbool to kill Abbaji and inherit his riches. Vishal Bharadwaj and Abbas Tyrewala's scorching screenplay takes precedence over performances in Maqbool and captivates you in the first half of the movie even as solid supporting acts by Piyush Mishra, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah keep your senses rooted to these characters.
Maqbool proceeds with a strong foreboding that something is going to go wrong very soon and that keeps you at the edge of your seat. Vishal Bhardwaj's handling of the adaptation is nothing short of masterful and he gets ample support in form of some immaculate performances from the lead cast. None more impressive than Tabu and Pankaj Kapoor. The former as the scheming Lady Macbeth who is always one step ahead of Macbeth and the latter as the principled criminal who has a Don Corleone air about everything he does. If it comes across as an imitation, it's because Pankaj Kapoor is as good as it gets for that role. Irrfan Khan as Macbeth is the very picture of dilemma in everything he does and becomes the foil against which Nimmi and Abbaji draw their emotional support from.
The only place where Maqbool falters is the last 15 minutes where in keeping up with the original text, the screenwriters' conviction in pulling off the climax isn't completely at its peak. And this portion seems particularly hasty and chaotic, especially after the laid back first half. But apart from that, Maqbool is a suspenseful, taut and an extremely captivating adaptation of the timeless Macbeth.
You remember all those discussions about a book or a play being better than a movie?
Well, this is one example where that argument just might not hold.