Turning 56 on August 4, Vishal Bhardwaj holds a special position in Indian Cinema. Known for his seemingly effortless portrayal of not-so-simple characters, Bhardwaj has a maverick voice that can adapt even the oldest of literature, Shakespearean tragedies for example, for the contemporary and recreate the textures of emotions, well suited in the socio-political context of the present. If you are not familiar with Bhardwaj’s cinema, here is our pick of his films that not only enchanted the audience, but also became the limelight of many award functions.
The Blue Umbrella (2005)
Certainly a masterpiece by Bhardwaj, this film could easily be considered an epitome in the depiction of innocence in storytelling. Having bagged the National Film Award for Best Children’s Film, this film features Pankaj Kapur, who does not fail in perfectly playing an elderly shopkeeper with a heart of a child. Traversing from the greed of an adult to the innocence of a child, the film captures all the textures of its characters and makes Ruskin Bond’s novel come alive.
In Haider, Bhardwaj takes the 17th-century Shakespearean tragedy play Hamlet and lets it ruminate with Kashmir’s politics. The gem that comes out is described by critic Rachel Saltz as the “Shakespearean Revenge in a Violent Kashmir." The film won National Awards for screenplay and music direction, both of which went to Bhardwaj.
Set in the backdrop of Mumbai’s underworld of criminals, Maqbool was the first of Bhardwaj’s adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies. Powered by the marvellous performances of Irrfan, Tabu, Pankaj, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah, the film won a National Award for Pankaj as the best supporting actor.
A winner of the Special Jury Award at the 54th National Film Awards, Omkara plays with the politics in Uttar Pradesh drawing its story from Shakespeare’s Othello. Starring Ajay Devgn in a titular character, the film has arguably the best performance of Saif Ali Khan, a character named Langda Tyagi.
Bhardwaj’s directorial debut Makdee got him international attention by making it to the 2003 Cannes Film Festival in a Critics’ Week section. The comedy-horror won the second prize at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
Bhardwaj is also a successful music director and composes music for all his films. He has won numerous awards for his music as well.