Star Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
What’s Good: Only Bhardwaj could have thought of giving Hamlet the tinge of poetry, wit and yet ironically set it in a troubled Kashmir. There is a keenness in the way he handles the subject. From Peer’s judgement of Kashmir in 1995 to the performances Bhardwaj extracts from his cast, it’s all exquisitely done, beyond words can express.
What’s Bad: There are very few times I will ever say it, and this is one of them, there’s no flaw per say in the film. Yes, the detailing could have been better done but Bharadwaj keeps it subtle, vulnerable, engaging and bubbling with an array of emotions all through.
Loo break: Even blinking will be a crime.
Watch or Not?: Haider is a rare film that will go down in cinematic history as a bold move that detaches Kashmir from the its usual depictions and dares to lay it bare. Talks of ghost ids, demilitarization of the state, the plebiscite that never happened are all issues mainstream cinema probably have never even heard of. Bhardwaj conjures up a heart wrenching tale of betrayal, loyalty, love, angst, pain and a man torn between them all. I am sure no one except Vishal could have stayed so true to Hamlet and made something so different from it. The performances are top notch but what works the best about Haider is its unpredictability. Even if you are fluent with Hamlet, there will be alot you can take away from Haider. I guess, this film is the best all those who are associated with it can get.
Haider (Shahid Kapoor) is a poetry student who is forced to return home when his father (Narendra Jha) disappears. Taken into custody for keeping a militant at his place, the doctor has gone missing. Haider returns to find his mother laughing with his chacha, hinting at a strong relationship between them. Ghazala (Tabu) from the onset is a tugging prop between Haider and Khurram (Kay Kay Menon). Amidst his life falling apart, his only solace is his fiancé Arshiya (Shraddha Kapoor) a righteous journalist.
Haider is hell bent on finding out what happens to his father and clues take through a journey where deceit is the norm and the most unlikely people have been disloyal to his Abbuji. Haider’s motive becomes revenge and does he succeed in it at all is what the film narrates.
Haider Review: Script Analysis
A humanitarian doctor finds himself fighting for life in Kashmir. When his wife asks why is he treating a militant, he smiles. She asks, “Kiski taraf ho aap”, he replies, “Zindagi Ki.” The doctor goes missing and his son Haider, a poetry student from Aligarh returns to find his realities transformed. There is a translucent maze through which he watches his mother laugh without inhibitions, while his chacha dances around with childlike mirth, singing a folksy Kahmiri lullaby. In that one scene, Bharadwaj and Peer lay out the basic themes of the play. The first hour of the film tracks a hapless Haider frantically looking for his father, refusing to believe he is dead. The most striking scene that shapes his mental state is when he and his mother discuss the aftermath of his father’s disappearance.
Tabu in a very powerful scene tells Haider, how repulsive and inattentive his Abbuji was. She elaborately describes her relationship with her husband expressing how he smelled of death and blood. It made her throw up. And in the same vein she explains how Haider was all she had and ever will have to look forward to.
Oedipus Complex is not evidently delved into but in Shahid’s words from his interview to Koimoi, it is running in undertones, latently present for the takers. The sexual tension between Ghazala and Haider are seen in hints. There are fleeting references of it. I mention this to stay clear of the fact that this isn’t why I call the film bold. It is Bhardwaj’s ability to retain the soul of Hamlet changing its form so drastically that mesmerises me.
The real enthusiasm of the play is revealed only when the Ghost walks into the scene but in Haider, the conversations with the ‘Ghost’ doesn’t drive the narrative. The monologues are reformed adequately and retained mostly but compared to Maqbool and Omkara, Haider risks deviating more than the usual. The constant harping on the word Chutzpah is for a reason!
And finally Haider is definitely larger than Hamlet in terms of volume it speaks of. A state torn between the animosity of two warring nations, Haiders are not a rare sight amidst the unrest of the Valley. Infusing the drama of disappearing people and giving it a relevant voice, Haider ups the Shakespearean drama, gives it a relatable look and sets it in a time of utter stagnation and helplessness, making it a consistent, coherent and engaging story.
Haider Review: Star Performances
When it comes to performances, everyone is on the same page in this film. Shahid Kapoor brings out his genetic brilliance and gives an ace performance. From covering Hamlet’s vulnerability to his anger about deceit, Kapoor delivers it all with breathtaking valor and immense sincerity. He slips from frame to frame, mood to mood with precision and ease that only someone who is convinced and confident can get.
Shraddha Kapoor as Oephilia or Arshiya as in the film, is great. Beautiful, innocent and smooth, she is better than most of her ungrateful roles.
Tabu brings her own to Gertrude. She plays Ghazala with flair and gets a haunting quality to her silence. When her son tells her she has two faces, the heartbreak shows on her face. Her beauty is such in the film that it reflects her state of mind. Her happiness speaks through her eyes, her pain shows even before she has slapped her son to express the same. Only Tabu could have brought alive Gertrude in Ghazala.
Irrfan Khan in few scenes in the film, is pitch perfect. He is the Quintessential Shakespearean prop that drives Hamlet and the actor is at his wicked best. Treat yourself if you can replicate his ‘Badla’. So much said in one word!
Kay Kay Menon is far away from his last few stints and gives Claudius (Khurram) his own color. I loved how his demeanor shifted in the presence of different people. Earnestly loving towards Ghazala, he is genuinely venomous towards Haider and Menon does it with utmost brilliance.
Narendra Jha has little to play but is smashing in his minuscule part.
Haider Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Usually such films are candid expressions of the filmmaker’s vision and Haider is no less. To create the tapestry of Haider could not possibly have been an easy task. Of course his repertoire shows he is capable of it but dealing with a plethora of emotions, blending them in the same film is only his cup of tea. He has used so much literature in his film, that it is an absolute delight to watch. There is a scene where Haider is looking through a pile of stenching bodies and suddenly wakes up a person who had survived whatever had happened to the rest of them. He wakes up, jumps out of the truck and dances in celebration. Such are relieving scenes in the film.
Even the variety of amusing scenes isn’t regular. A man is standing at the door of his house and refuses to go inside. Irrfan says that people are so accustomed to being interrogated, checked around that they refuse to walk inside without being checked. A group of grave diggers who support the cause of the militants in the region are blazing guns at people and suddenly break into a song.
Bharadwaj’s vision is clear. At the onset itself you know where his characters are heading and he keeps the journey interesting still. There are no confused hiccups or moments where the filmmaker is self consumed. The iconic graveyard scene is beautifully translated and you are bound to sit with a lump in your throat.
Adding to the narrative is the menacing soundtrack of the film. The other version of Aao Na is even better and Arijit gives the classic Ghazal ‘Gulo Mein Rang Bhare’ his own touch. ‘Jhelum’ especially was fabulous and reveals its relevance over the narrative.
A special mention is required here for the cinematography. Pankaj Kumar explores Kashmir with a contrasting serenity and makes it come alive through the film. The shots are neat and adds value to the ongoing story. The streak of blood’s red in snow has its own shocking relevance which Kumar uses excellently.
Haider Review: The Last Word
Haider is an unforgettable film that never fumbles, never stumbles, and is so sure of itself that it doesn’t go wrong. From Shahid to Tabu to Kay Kay to the powerful cameo of Irrfan, everything in the film works. It’s a Guztaq film that audaciously breaks every rule in the book, everything that you could have expected from it and ends up being that edgy watch which you’ll savor, while you watch it from the edge of seats. Haider is Chutzpah and inkeeping with the same vein, I will rate this film the highest I have ever gone with a movie. This is an easy 4.5/5. I would have gone higher but I believe in leaving the little window open for better always. With this, to watch or not to watch shouldn’t be a question.
Haider releases on 2nd October, 2014.
Share with us your experience of watching Haider.