The film was showcased in the Marché du Film section at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival along with a book on the making of Omkara. It was also selected to be screened at the Cairo International Film Festival, where Bhardwaj was awarded for Best Artistic Contribution in Cinema of a Director. The film also won three awards at the Kara Film Festival, an award at the Asian Festival of First Films, three National Film Awards, and seven Filmfare Awards.
The film became part of a series by Bhardwaj of film interpretations of popular literary works, including Maqbool (2003) based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Blue Umbrella (2007) based on Ruskin Bond's The Blue Umbrella, 7 Khoon Maaf (2011) based on Bond's Susanna's Seven Husbands, and Haider (2014) based on Shakspeare's Hamlet.
Omkara Shukla or Omi (Ajay Devgan) is a bahubali, a sort of political enforcer. He is the leader of a gang which commits political crimes for the local politician Tiwari Bhaisaab (Naseeruddin Shah). Ishwar 'Langda' Tyagi (Saif Ali Khan) and Keshav 'Kesu Firangi' Upadhyay (Vivek Oberoi) are his closest lieutenants.
The movie starts with Langda Tyagi gate-crashing a baraat and challenging Rajju (Deepak Dobriyal), the bridegroom, to try and stop Omkara from abducting the bride, Dolly Mishra (Kareena Kapoor). Rajju fails and the wedding never takes place.
Dolly’s father Advocate Raghunath Mishra (Kamal Tiwari), mostly referred in the movie as vakeel saab (lawyer sir), is furious and confronts Omi. He puts a gun to Omi’s head and demands the return of his daughter. Bhaisaab intervenes and resolves the conflict by mentioning the current political conditions and prevents bloodshed. Still unconvinced, Raghunath grieves to Bhaisaab the next day. To bring an end to this issue, Dolly is made to appear in front of her father and clarify that she eloped with Omi and was not abducted. She also tells the events of how she fell in love with Omkara. The father leaves feeling betrayed and ashamed. The director here references one of the most significant lines of the play Othello, with Dolly's father repeating the couplet almost verbatim, albeit in translation. The original lines read, "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father and may thee."
After some crafty political arm-twisting, involving an MMS sex scandal, Omkara eliminates a powerful electoral rival. Bhaisaab is elected for parliament and Omkara is promoted from bahubali to the candidate for the upcoming state elections. Omkara appoints Kesu over Langda as his successor once he enters politics himself. Langda, disappointed with Omkara's poor judgment and jealous of Kesu, his younger, less-experienced, superior, hatches a plot to avenge both his offenders. He first causes a violent brawl between Kesu and Rajju by taking advantage of Kesu's low threshold for alcohol. Such irresponsible behaviour by Kesu infuriates Omi, who now starts having doubts over his decision.
On the one hand, playing the role of a concerned friend, Langda convinces Kesu to appeal to Dolly, Omi's lover and newly wedded wife, to mollify Omi. On the other hand, he starts to disrepute Dolly by implicating Kesu's visits to her as an illicit affair between the two. A kamarbandh carelessly dropped by Dolly and stolen by Langda’s wife Indu (Konkona Sen Sharma), which eventually reaches Billo Chamanbahar (Bipasha Basu) as a gift from Kesu, plays an important part in the plot, as evidence of Dolly’s infidelity.
During the climax, on the night of their wedding, Omi is convinced that Dolly and Kesu have been having an affair behind his back. In rage, he smothers his new wife to death. Langda shoots Kesu with a silent approval from Omi. Kesu is hit with a bullet on his arm. Hearing gunshots and in shock, Indu enters the room where Omi is sitting next to Dolly’s corpse in remorse. Indu notices the kamarbandh and confesses to stealing it; they both understand the fatal misunderstanding with Langda as its root cause.
In retribution, Indu slashes Langda's throat and Omi commits suicide. The movie closes with Omi lying dead on the floor and Dolly’s dead body swinging above him, while Kesu looks on.Omkara "Omi" Shukla — Omkara is a hardened goon, equivalent to a capo, a man with principles who sees life in extremes, either as good or evil. He is the illegitimate child of a higher caste Brahmin man and a lower caste woman.
Dolly Mishra — Dolly is a playful, innocent, young woman, smitten by Omi. She is the one who expresses her love for him and lays the basis of their relationship. Throughout the narrative, other characters are shown to doubt her innocence, including her father. Omi finds her personality ambiguous, resulting in the tragic end.
Ishwar "Langda" Tyagi — Langda (which means limp in Hindi) is the catalyst in the story. He had been a loyal right-hand man to Omi for years and expected to be the next bahubali. Kesu’s promotion gives a crushing blow to his ambitions and brings out the evil in him. His jealousy and hatred towards his kin is further encouraged by chiding remarks from Rajju.
Keshav "Kesu Firangi" Upadhyay — Kesu is Omi’s other deputy. His epithet comes from his knowledge of English. He is college-educated and urban, known to be somewhat of a casanova. He is important to Omi for his political contacts in the students. After admitting to having "known" a string of women, he falls in love with Billo and proposes marriage. He is shown to be impatient and easily frustrated with a low threshold for alcohol.
Billo Chamanbahar — Billo is a singer/dancer who melts hearts with just her looks. She sees Kesu as a future companion, though keeps him hanging on. She makes an easy tool for Langda to manipulate.
Indu — Indu leads a bittersweet life as Langda Tyagi’s wife. She becomes an unwitting aid in her husband's plan.
Rajan "Rajju" Tiwari — Son of a respectable thekedar, he is head-over-heels in love with Dolly. He tries to win her affection throughout the movie.
Tiwari Bhaisaab — Bhaisaab is an influential and powerful politician that many characters defer to. He is an outwardly sophisticated man, with a ruthless interior. He is a politician to the bone and rules the region with an iron fist, picking up enemies as he progresses his career. He is a father figure for Omkara as well as the political head honcho.
Pankaj Tripathi as Kichlu
Manav Kaushik as Surendra Kaptaan
Rahul Kumar (actor) as Ishwar "Langda" Tyagi son
Omkara was shot over a period of 4 months across various locales, including Lonavala, Lucknow University, Allahabad, Satara Mahabaleshwar, Mumbai and Wai, Maharashtra, where bulk of the shooting took place. Even though most of the shooting took place in Maharashtra, sets were erected with precise details to create an authentic Uttar Pradesh village.
Members of the production team included stunt co-ordinator Jai Singh, costume designer Dolly Ahluwalia, choreographers Bhushan Lakhandri and Ganesh Acharya along with chief assistant director Ajit Ahuja.
The title of the film was decided by a popular vote. Moviegoers had a choice among Omkara, Issak and O Saathi Re, all of which had already appeared as the film's song titles.
Aamir Khan was originally considered for Saif Ali Khan's role. Bhardwaj and Aamir were going to collaborate on an earlier project but due to creative differences, the film was shelved. Bhardwaj thought about casting Khan in this film but decided against it and therefore went to Saif.
Omkara had a fairly good performance at the box office in India and earned praises all over. The movie grossed $16,466,144 worldwide in its total run at the box office. Even though the movie received rave reviews, the dark theme and strong language kept away family audiences. It was, however, a grand success abroad. The film quickly entered the UK's Top Ten and did very well in Australia, South Africa and the United States. Omkara was praised for its taut script, dramatic sequences and its lead performances. Kareena Kapoor's and Ajay Devgan's performance was considered to be the finest of their films. Director Vishal Bhardwaj says it was Aamir Khan who was keen to star in the role of Langda Tyagi initially, but finally it was Saif Ali Khan who played it and drew the most praise for this villainous role, along with Konkana Sen who eventually won a National Award for her performance.
All the dialogues in the film are delivered in a strong input of the Khariboli dialect other than Hindi, including the use of swear words, generally absent from mainstream Hindi cinema. The movie received an A Certificate from the censor board of India. Critics and audiences were divided in their opinions about the foul language. Many believed that it was not required and would lead to distancing the movie from the family audience, while on the other hand some applauded it for authentically showing the rustic setting of the story. The language and A certificate narrowed the audience but in turn brought accolades for the creators of the movie for valuing creativity over commercial success.
The music is composed by Vishal Bhardwaj and the lyrics are penned by Gulzar. The music was released on 8 July 2006. The official soundtrack contains eight tracks. In January 2009, the track "Beedi" was used as the theme tune to a Brazilian TV soap opera called Caminho das Índias, produced by Rede Globo. On the back of this success, "Beedi" received considerable airplay on pop radio stations in Brazil becoming the first Hindi-only song to achieve this. The mini-series' soundtrack, which includes the track, went on to become one of the biggest selling albums of the year. Eventually Bipasha Basu became the talk of the movie for giving 2 blockbuster hit songs which were beedi and namak ishq ka which became immensely popular. According to the Indian trade website Box Office India, with around 11,50,000 units sold, this film's soundtrack album was the year's eleventh highest-selling.
Music Director - Vishal Bhardwaj
Awards and nominations
Nominations are as below;