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“Dil ki agar sunu toh tu hai… Dimag ki sunu toh tu hai nahi”

My travesty to call “Haider” a meagre adaptation of an “abridged” version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet may not appeal to many people out there! But yes, if you are perspicacious enough, you can unmistakably see the superficial attempts in trying to embed a “literati landmark” into a classic “Mission Kashmir” milieu.

The story unwinds in the militant savaged Srinagar of the year 1995. A vengeance story of a journey of a “good-boy-gone-bad” in search of his father Dr Hillal Meer (Prakash Jha) who is acquitted and captured by the Indian army for hiding a militant leader in the house. What a brilliantly essayed role and well casted too! What follows after that is a “Desi-Nazi” type situation where Indian army is our “Desi-Hitler”. I really admire Vishal Bharadwaj for having the guts to portray the “Indian army” in negative light– so much that he actually introduces the concept of what I call “Militant Sale” which subtly exposes the gory transparencies of the Indian government’s tactics in winning the hearts of our people.

Haider’s mother Ghazala (Tabu) is a woman that keeps your attention riveted on her throughout the movie. Her haunting eyes cry of guilt, fear, revenge and inestimable love for her “Jaana (Haider)” and much more. This lady sure knows how to indulge in hedonistic pleasure even in the times of utter hostility. Her deceptive eyes manifest truth when Haider sees her getting cosy with his uncle Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) just a fortnight after her husband’s disappearance. Tabu’s casting proves to be a boon for the movie. It is almost like Tabu has been possessed by Ghazala and Ghazala inturn by Gertrude!

Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) is the evil Uncle Claudius, hungry for his brother’s blood, “bhabhi-Jaan’s” sensuality and Haider’s death. His furtive motives are later revealed to Haider by Roohdar (Dr Haleel’s prison-mate) who tells Haider that Khurram was ultimately responsible for the death of Haider’s father.

Roohdar’s gory flashback, the conviction in his talk and the familiar song hummed on his lips convinces Haider who then swears revenge on all those people who were responsible for his father’s death. Haider camouflages his insurgence under the cloak of a “retard” who has lost his mind and sets off on the journey of “Chutzpah”!!

What comes as a surprise was the top notch acting of “Shahid Kapoor”. I don’t think anybody but he could have pulled off Haider’s role with such an ease and perfection.

Oops!!, forgot to mention about Shraddha Kapoor (Arshi) – Haider’s love interest. Oh well, it’s more like she has done a cameo role for the movie. All she does is cushions Haider and eventually dies inconspicuously.

The storyline is flawed and fractured with abrupt disconnects at places and keeps the audience busy in trying to join the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle. Yet, gets in to pace quickly to drive the momentum on.
The cinematography here is serious business. The picturesque Srinagar is so “tragically” beautiful and haunting. Flesh and souls buried underneath the deceitful white snow beds, the trees whispering the call of death, valley’s and rivers concealing the identities of the millions disappeared- Pankaj Kumar’s breath taking cinematography leaves you asking for more.

“Jhelum…..Jhelum, laal laal hua, laal laal hua”- an excerpt from the song
“Bismil” stalks you even after you leave the theatre….again and again!

The climax of this movie is a deluge of conflict- a conflict between to do or not to do? To believe or not to believe? To love or not to love? To forgive or not to forgive? To live or not to live?

Though this movie is not a complete adaptation of Hamlet, the influential nuances of Hamlet are well preserved by Bharadwaj in his story. A great attempt to “tame” the Epic in a Bollywood style! You cannot really expect a 5-Act drama to be scripted in a 2-hour movie, and scripted in such a way that it appeals to the crowd, do you??

If you have a thing for “artsy” movies, Haider should top your bucket list before it goes out of the theatres for great movies are set to get the cash registers ringing!