Haider (2014)


Vishal Bharadwaj’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s titular play ‘Hamlet’ is dark, gritty and thoroughly meticulous in craft. There is always a beauty about snow white backdrop that provides the canvas to draw human fallacies in red.  ‘Haider’, set in the backdrop of Kashmir proves to be violently beautiful. But it’s not the violence, or the prominent vengeance of ‘Hamlet’; nor the socio-political dogma that creating a ripple of controversy was faced by the people during the 95 Kashmir Conflicts,  that was the driving force of Haider. It was the awry and eerie love and relationship between the mother-son duo of Ghazala and Haider.

The primary characters of the story, and their relationship did not deviate much from Hamlet in the film. But, just like his previous films on Shakespeare’s works, Bharadwaj triumphs, more prominently in this film, in the craft of blending the tragedy of the play with the emotional aspect of the story. Thus, the film becomes very unique and Bharadwaj’s own in that perspective. The preparation and hard work of the director reflects in the film’s narrative.

Much like Hamlet, Haider arrives in a discontent Kashmir to find that his family has been torn apart by the war that is brewing between the Militants and government. Amidst that, people are disappearing, seemingly at random. To Haider’s grief, he finds that his father is one of the missing persons and to his shock he finds out the proximity of the relationship between his mother and uncle, Khurram.

Viewers could almost sense the amount of threads Bharadwaj was spinning in the film. Whether it was Haider’s search for the truth, the controversial torment of the common people in Kashmir, or Haider’s search for his father that continues to reek of betrayal and thus spawn vengeance in his heart; Haider’s love for his fiancée or the palpable love between Haider and Ghajala, which to me is crowning glory of this tale of vengeance – all of these threads creates the web where our titular protagonist is at the heart of. And herein lies the mastery of Vishal Bharadwaj that not for once one could feel him losing the grasp in the story, such is the screenplay.

A film like this deserves the acting brilliance it had in the cast. First of all, Shahid Kapoor, hitherto mostly playing romantic characters (with the slight exception of Kaminey, another Vishal Bharadwaj film), was nothing less than magnifique in his portrayal of the central character. The soliloquy of his in the midst of the street would and should go down as one of the finest acting display in Bollywood.
Kay Kay Menon, as the antagonist Khurram, does his work deftly. But, perhaps, being an ardent Kay Kay fan, it just seemed a tad bit overtly dramatic from his part in some occasions. In smaller roles, Irrfan Khan (as the enigmatic Roohdar) and Narendra Jha (as Haider’s father Hilal) do more than than their limited screen time allowed.  Shraddha Kapoor does not disappoint either.

But, the film was provided another dimension by the performance of one woman. Perhaps it was symbolic that the story had powerful men falling into destruction through the love of one woman, the femme fatale in its truest sense. A character like Ghajala needed acting of highest order, and Tabu, just like the woman she portrayed, put her male acting colleagues a league behind her in this film.

The film is backed up adeptly by Vishal Bharadwaj’s own compositions -Songs ‘Aaj ke Naam’ and ‘Jhelum’ provides a bleak yet soulful tune, and not every day one can see the visual portrayal of songs like ‘Bismil’ and ‘So Jao’.  Superlative cinematography of Pankaj Kumar does not go amiss either.

Haider is a mammoth sized achievement in contemporary Hindi cinema, basking in the glory of its display; and it needs to be watched.



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