Omkara, the back story


In 2007, we saw Anupama Chopra’s SRK book released, which told of Khan’s bio and career trajectory, while also giving readers an intro to the Bombay film industry.

Later in the same year, Stephen Alter’s Confessions of a Bollywood Love Thief made its appearance.   (Try reading a book with that title on the subway and note the looks on the faces of fellow commuters  pondering the meaning.)

Alter’s book takes readers behind the scenes of the making of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara, while splicing in history and background information about the Hindi film industry (visits to Dev Anand, Shekar Kapur, Shyam Benegal, etc.).  

He takes us from the  birth of the concept for the film, to the music  composition, the casting, the location scouting and set-building, to the shooting, choreography and, the screening.   Along the way we –  the filmi fans –  will find many interesting  details: there was great doubt until the first scene was shot as to whether Saif would go ahead and cut his hair short, Ajay Devgan is quite hands-on when it comes to camera set-ups and cut-away shots, that was real dung Konkona Sen Sharma was making cakes out of during the scene with Kareena and Vivek, and on and on.

I wish there were more books like this, to feed our appetites for the behind-the-scenes info without falling into baseless gossip.   My only complaint  is that the non-Omkara chapters (while all interesting) don’t mesh that well with the flow of the story.   For anyone new, or not that new, to the B’wood juggernaut, those chapters are still welcome, but perhaps they would have been better suited to a separate book.

What Alter does have, in spades, is great access.   (His cousin, Tom Alter, an FTI Pune grad, has acted in over 200 Hindi movies.)     Through his eyes, we get to watch the Beedi item number being filmed for the Shakespearean hit,  the crew setting up and working their magic so we’ll find it all credible on screen, and the actors doing a line reading at the Sun-N-Sand.

Interestingly, like Chopra’s book, this one was published by an American house (Harcourt).

6 thoughts on “Omkara, the back story

  1. Agree that the book is very worthwhile – IF you know the Omkara. Another lively Bollywood book published roughly around 2005 would by Lights, Camera, Masala, Making Movies in Mumbai – with lots of pictures, over-the-top layout and a broad look at many different artists and movies especially after 1994.

    1. Hmm, yes, I think I have that one somewhere around the house too. They’re quite different books, even beyond just the visual vs. narrative poles. In the photographic realm, I love Jonathan Torgovnik’s Bollywood Dreams. I like that it’s also got quite a few images related to Tamil films as well.

  2. Sanket, Alter does, briefly touch on that part of the film, though I can’t find the reference right now. A lot of the movie was shot around Wai (in Maharashtra) which they made to look like rural UP.

  3. I read about this just as Omkara was coming out.. I know a fair bit about the making of the film, having followed the news around it for months and months prior to release, but this book sounds fun regardless, and is relatively cheap on, so I might order. 🙂

  4. Will have to pick that up – I agree, I wish there were more books like this around. The only one that I have picked up is a rather pricey one of ‘Sholay’. That being one of my favorite movies of all time (Bollywood or otherwise) made the purchase a no-brainer and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the back story.

    Did it mention where the scene that Ajay’s character was ‘made’ on the hilltop was shot? I must go visit that place on my next trip to Desh!!!

    cheers, Sanket

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