Give Vishal Bharadwaj a solid pat on the back, and sit back waiting for his next movie.

Give Vishal Bharadwaj a solid pat on the back, and sit back waiting for his next movie. This man seethes brilliance in his film-making. His dialogues, his script, his music, and his direction: all are top-notch, proving that Makdi was no fluke.

Maqbool is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. For setting, Vishal trades the Lord & Lady for ‘Bhai’ (Gangster) and Mistress in present-day Mumbai underworld complete with corrupt cops, handguns and conniving politicians.

The story follows Maqbool (Macbeth: Irfan Khan) who is the right-hand man of Abbaji (King Duncan: Pankaj Kapoor), the most powerful and influential gang-lord in Mumbai. Abbaji’s mistress Nimmi (Lady Macbeth: Tabu) falls in love with Maqbool & inspires him to kill Abbaji and take-over his empire. What they did not expect was the surfacing of guilt, and loyals of Abbaji.

Vishal projects the story from within the crime-family, toying with the loyalties of the viewer. Every character is built deep; you can’t find yourself rooting for or against anyone, so justified is each in his/her actions. Add to that the wonderful dialogues & screenplay riding a satire of life, society and movies.

Bharadwaj’s best ‘character translation’ from the play is morphing the three witches that haunt Macbeth into two corrupt cops of the Mumbai Police, enacted by thespians Naseeruddin Shah & Om Puri. The two actors signed up for the smaller supporting roles to have a chance to work with each other after a long time, much to the benefit of the audience. Good enough to deserve their on spin-off movie, these characters become the source of the movie’s dark humour.

Fittingly, the lead is played by Irfan Khan, the de facto successor of the two thespians of India’s art films. Khan, as is his forte, portrays the character as if he was born to play it. From his matter-of-fact way of delivering lines to the screaming eyes, he is a treat to watch. Tabu plays Lady Macbeth at her competent best.

That brings us to Pankaj Kapoor: an actor who has time and again proven how under-rated he is. From the tormented scientist in Ek Doctor ki Maut to the hilarious possessive father in Chameli ki Shaadi, Kapoor has shown us his variety proving he is as good as the best, without getting the recognition that Shah & Puri received. Indeed, Kapoor redefines the Indian gang-lord, and surpasses all previous attempts at such a role. His Abbaji is the most captivating character in the movie, yet the most firmly rooted in reality. If Mumbai has/had a Godfather, this is he or how he should be.

Each of the actors that have portrayed their respective characters, I can’t think of even one major character being replaced by any other in Bollywood.

Rating: ★★★★★

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.