The elegance and opulence of Urdu, a composite language native to both Northern India and Pakistan alike – falls like a soft feather landing gently on your ears. The beautiful poetry of Kashmir is ripped by the harsh reality of Kashmiri life – the Indian military protecting its land against the people who cannot seem to make a home in their own land.
If you are unaware about the tragedy called Kashmir – the jannat (translation Heaven) where once Gods lived – watch Haider.
Vishal Bhardwaj (director, scriptwriter, producer and music composer for the movie) is an exceptional storyteller and always ahead of his time. If you haven’t watched Haider – please do so. If you’ve watched it, tell me what you thought of it. I should have watched it in 2014, but I got lazy and watched it this weekend. The story is not leaving my mind, the background humming and the characters are still talking to me.
The sophistication about Bhardwaj’s movies is that they tell the story of the land and the people so politically correctly. Be it Omkara and it’s placement in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh, or be it Haider and it’s positioning in the valleys of Kashmir. Each character in Bhardwaj’s movies is painstakingly sketched, appropriately cast, and perfectly rendered. I honestly feel if Bhardwaj made a movie about the painful subject of “Black Lives Matter” today, he’d do a better job at it than most acclaimed Hollywood directors. He’s stark, he’s real and he’s tasteful.
In Haider, the Kashmiri locales are dark and almost painted in monotone. The wide angle shots of the carnage leave a deep mark on your psyche. The two angles of the story – the torture and the pain suffered by the innocent Kashmiris at the hands the militants, and the somewhat ruthless tact with which Indian army has to deal with the innocent citizens to protect Kashmir from insurgency. You will see real-life insights into the inside job – militants trained to kill militants, but the only ones who suffered – the innocent Kashmiri citizens.
The story starts with Haider returning to his hometown from college and finding his home annihilated. His father, a doctor who helped saved the life of a militant was caught by the police and the family home razed with bullets. Haider sets out to look for his father – across the mournful Jhelum river, through the silent Himalayan mountains, and the among the orphaned Kashmiris. What he instead finds is a treacherous path to revenge, militancy and hate – a stark reminder that pain and loss can often steer humans to unleash suffering on their own kin. The scene with piles of bodies of innocent children reminds you of the insufferable and immeasurable pain suffered by fellow Kashmiris – be it Muslims or Kashmiri Pandits. We all hurt and bleed the same!
The Perfect Cast
The searing guilt exuded by Tabu – who plays Haider’s mother having an affair with Haider’s paternal uncle, rips your heart. She calls her Haider, her only son – “Jaana” or “my angel, my life”. But her ambitions and desire could not curb her lust for power – she decides to stay with her newfound lover – her politician brother-in-law, instead of being a maternal balm to her crumbling son. Haider and his mother share a difficult love-hate relationship that’s dark enough to make you wonder about the extent of their mental and physical intimacy. The whole subject of the mom-son Oedipus inspired relationship is not in-your-face, but lingers subtly in the back of your mind.
Tabu is exceptional as always and is probably the only Indian actresses who can deliver the vulnerability of a loving woman and the callous zeal of an ambitious woman with a stroke of unabated perfection. Raja Sen says, “It’s hard to feel affection toward a black widow spider who leaves bodies strung up in her wake—unless Tabu plays her.”
Of course, the movie upped the sexy quotient to the nth degree with Irfan Khan playing the undercover Pakinstani double-agent, who is nothing but trouble.
Haider, aka Shahid Kapoor – poignantly represents the pain and confusion so rampant in Kashmir. His wretchedness is so palpable. Even in the scenes where he makes love to his lover – you can see the invisible dagger of betrayal through his heart. Unable to come to terms with his mother’s affair and his father’s death, Haider’s sensibility and stability slip from under his feet.
Agony, longing and revenge are a dangerous concoction. It’s like falling in a dark mudslide – you slip till breathing becomes a burden and your mind and body give up. After all, there’s no cure for vengeance – it never leads to salvation. Without revealing the storyline, Shahid plays the role of a wounded child-man with uncontested honesty.
Shraddha Kapoor – Haider’s love interest, is charming, innocent and pure like life itself. I wish she continues playing in meaningful movies because she has a budding actress buried in her somewhere.
Despite being a adamant nationalist, you will find yourself at least acknowledging the point of view of various stakeholders in this politically charged movie. That is the subtlety of great movie making – you will find yourself thinking about issues beyond the movie.
The Brilliance Named Vishal Bhardwaj
It’s worth mentioning that the maker of the movie, Vishal Bhardwaj is originally from Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh – a state mostly notorious for birthing rapists, criminals and corrupt politicians. Being a proud native of Uttar Pradesh, I have come to believe that Uttar Pradesh rarely produces diamonds in form of people – but when she does, they’re are nothing short of Kohinoor. Case and point – Amitabh Bachchan, Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kshayap, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and many others of the current lot, who are untouchable and unparalleled in their talent quotient.
Bhardwaj is an ardent disciple of William Shakespeare. Many of his movies are an adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. Maqbool, an adaptation of Macbeth, Omkara, an adaptation of Othello, and Haider, an adaption of Hamlet. I imagined Shakespeare’s soul sitting in the audience and marveling the genius called Bhardwaj. I bet he’d nominate Bhardwaj for an Oscar too – but that’s my secret fantasy.
Each of these movies made me think about the human condition – we haven’t stopped conniving, scheming, backstabbing – like crabs dumped in a bucket pulling each other down to rise up and escape. From the times of the Julius Caesar till today – regimes have been toppled and innocents killed – nothing has really changed.
Here are some famous quotes from the Hamlet:
And just because I can get away with it, I added a random gallery of Irfan Khan pictures for my own viewing pleasure!