Movie review: 'Haider'
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan
Shahid Kapoor in 'Haider'
Rejoice. The sensitive storyteller is back in his element. After two memorable films (Maqbool and Omkara), Vishal Bharadwaj completes his Shakespearean trilogy with Haider that’s inspired by Hamlet.
The film is set in 1995 in Srinagar, at a time when Kashmir was suffering the most with armed insurgency growing in power. Tabu, in what could easily be the best role and performance of her career, plays Ghazala, who is constantly struggling to save herself from an insecure life and her son, Haider (Shahid Kapoor), from getting waylaid into the world of militancy. 'Tu sarhad paar jaayega?' (referring to Pakistan) she asks him twice in the film, once with shock and rage and another time in heartbreaking despair, thus mapping the gamut of emotions that she experiences throughout the movie and the kind of frighteningly passionate love she feels for the son. Some of Ghazala’s fears come true when her humanitarian, poetic doctor husband shelters wounded militants in their cosy home and before she knows, her home is blown up and the husband goes missing. Now, Haider is looking for revenge, from the people who abducted his beloved father, and more importantly for the betrayal he thinks his mother plotted against his father, with his Chacha (Kay Kay Menon).
Shahid Kapoor’s Haider is the child man who is caught in a conflict of emotions for his mother as he can’t decide if he should trust her blind love for him or mistrust her for ‘betraying’ his father and moving on with her life. His desperation to break out of her love and be his own man shows in one of the many powerful scenes between him and Ghazala, when he finally bursts out with, “Har baar har waqya kya sirf aapke palkon se nazar aana chahiye?” (Script and screenplay written by Vishal Bharadwaj and Basharat Peer). The sexual tension between the two (prince Hamlet suffers from Oedipal complex in Hamlet) is palpable as Ghazala makes some subtle and some not so subtle references to his possessiveness for her and her body.
Shahid’s performance is earnest and effective, as someone who is caught in the vortex of emotions and revenge. Shraddha Kapoor is fresh faced and natural as Arshiya, Haider’s love interest. Irrfan has a small but powerful cameo as Roohdaar (the man with the soul), who comes as a torchbearer for Haider. Each of Bharadwaj’s characters is evidently handpicked with much care, which includes competent actors like Aamir Bashir, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Lalit Parimoo.
While Vishal Bharadwaj brings alive the ecstasy, pain and passion of Hamlet on screen, he also reminds us of the harsh truth in our own backyard, the man-made mayhem in the God-made jannat that is Kashmir. All this done with his classic poetic touch intact. We all have been hearing and reading horror stories involving people - who call Kashmir their home and their seemingly unending struggle in the face of extreme adversity - but we often quickly turn the page and move on. This time, Bharadwaj holds the mirror so uncomfortably close to the issue that intimate details of the suffering and the evident hopelessness of your own countrymen sits as a burden on your conscience.
Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography offers a breathtaking visual treat of Srinagar and the rest of Kashmir that fills up the screen and your senses. As you watch the beauty of the valley wide-eyed, you can almost smell the Gulmohar in the air and touch the icy waters of Jhelum.The second half dips a bit before it picks up again with an unforgettable climax. Please watch this film. It has chutzpah (Haider’s favourite word for obvious reasons) and a lot of soul too.