Defying the notion that overseas audiences only appreciate star-studded colourful melodramas like Fanaa, Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara, a riveting retelling of Shakespeare's Othello, opened to strong numbers in North America and a decent gross in the United Kingdom.
The combined gross exceeds $600,000 for the film made for about $4.4 million. And that's quite an achievement, considering Bhardwaj's last Shakespearean adaptation Maqbool, a well-made version of Macbeth, hardly had a commercial run in these lucrative markets.
The good opening for Omkara follows the dismal performance of another film that was also considered arty. Naseeruddin Shah's directorial debut Yun Hota to Kya Hota burnt out with less than $35,000 in the United Kingdom and North America.
In North America, Omkara grossed about $425,000 in three days in just about 47 theatres (most big-budget Hindi films open in about 60 theatres) and was No 19 on the box-office list.
In the United Kingdom it was placed at No 10, but could open with a decent but unspectacular $180,000 in 30 theatres, according to Screen International.
Even if the film were to drop by about 50 percent in the next week, it can still earn an impressive $1.5 million in the two territories.
And that would make it a far better grossing film overseas than recent masala films such as Golmaal. (In the United Kingdom Golmaal grossed just about $160,000 in its three-week long run. And it wasn't a bigger success in America)
The impressive opening of Omkara comes just as Fanaa ends its run in North America and the UK with a stellar $4.3 million gross, and Water winds up its North American run with a record-making $5.2 million for a Hindi language film.
Bhardwaj's Omkara received better mainstream media coverage in the UK than North America. Giving it three stars out of five, Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian, 'Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara is a flawed but worthwhile attempt to transfer Othello to the modern setting of Uttar Pradesh in India, and to render the story in a Bollywood style.'
'It is appropriate,' Bradshaw added, because Bollywood, with its liking for ingenious fantasy and romance, has often seemed to me to resemble in style nothing so much as a late Shakespeare play.'
In the Observer, Philip French called the adaptation 'ingenious.' 'Mobile phones are used where Shakespeare employed eavesdropping; an erotic, bejewelled waistband replaces the handkerchief as a compromising device,' he wrote, calling the performances 'satisfactory' while singling out Saif Ali Khan's take on Iago for high praise.