The film is Vishal Bharadwaj's interpretation of William Shakespeare's classic play, Othello. A play that has been made four times in Hollywood but is being brought to life for the first time as a mainstream Hindi film in a commercial format. Like the legendary Hollywood filmmaker, Orson Wells, Vishal Bharadwaj too is fascinated with Shakespearean drama - one of Vishal's finest works remains his interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth - Maqbool. Likewise, Omkara in spirit, stays true to the central theme of Othello and ends up humanizing Shakespeare's characters with all the necessary folklore and ethnic charm that is required for a contemporary Indian story setting. Set against the milieu of political warfare in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh, the film follows one man's descent into sexual jealousy because of his passionate love for his woman and the final destruction of that love at the altar of blind obsession. Love is blind but jealousy is even blinder and that can tear apart even the strongest and bravest of warriors - in this case Omkara. Omkara or Omi is a gifted chieftain who heads a gang of outlaws, which include the crafty Langda Tyagi and the dynamic Kesu amongst his chief cohorts. The story begins when Omi appoints Kesu and not Langda as his chief lieutenant. Langda's pride is slighted and raging with envy he hatches a plot to falsely implicate Omi's beautiful wife Dolly, in a love affair with Omi's "favorite lieutenant", Kesu. With the unwitting aid of Indu, Langda's wife, and the willing help of Rajju, a fellow grouch, Langda's plan blooms uncontrollably and results in horrific tragedy. Using petty insinuations and lies, Langda keeps poisoning Omi's mind till one day it snaps and Omi goes about tearing up his own safe and secure world... But like all love stories which never really end. Out of the ashes of this one too comes a twist... Omkara's dark love for Dolly, Dolly's unquestioning love for Omi, Langda's warped loyalty and jealousy for Omi, the vibrant Kesu's unswerving devotion to Omi - all lead up to a dark tragedy by the end of which Omi finally realizes the backlash of his actions but is it too late?
The title of the film, "Omkara", was decided by a contest that was open to the public. Three names were shortlisted for the title and the general public voted in by SMS to choose their favorite. The selected names included "Omkara", "O Saathi Re" and "Issak" (the western UP pronunciation of the word "Ishq"). The public voted overwhelmingly in favor of "Omkara". However, all three of the possible titles are songs on the soundtrack ("Issak" being another name for the song "Namak").