Reviews, Vol I, Issue II
Hamlet the story by William Shakespeare as we all know is a masterpiece! Haider the movie by Vishal Bharadwaj as we should know, is a masterpiece among the many Hindi films that gets churned out of Mumbai based Bollywood.
Haider is one of those rare films that can disturb one’s mind. It happened while I exited the theatre after the drama on the screen unfolded and ended. It is about Kashmir in the mid-90s when militancy broke out and peaked.
The tragedy of a paradise is well caught on tape. A tragedy, that till today continues in many aspects of the day-today lives of common folks in the valley. Here the drama involves a family. The head of the family Hilaal Meer who is a doctor, is called to operate upon a separatist leader who is suffering from appendicitis. He is secretly transported to the doctor’s house and the surgery done. This Dr. Meer does to avoid detection at an outside facility. His wife Ghazzala, played by Tabu questions his allegiance over this issue. Somehow news of this is obtained by the Indian army who raids the house the next day. In the fire fight, the patient along with his other accomplices, are killed and the doctor is taken away for questioning. The house, once caringly taken care of by Dr. Meer and Ghazzala, is now ruined.
A few days later Haider, a budding poet returns home after completing his studies and sees the destruction of his house. Haider is played by Shahid Kapoor. He also learns of his dad’s disappearance. To his shock he finds his mother in a gay mood with his uncle Khurrum, played by Kay Kay Menon. He doesn’t what to make of it. On one side there is sadness in the household about the loss of the house and the disappearance of his beloved father, and the other, he witnesses his mother in the jovial company of his uncle. He then undertakes a journey of police stations to search for his dad with the help of his fiancée Arshia, played by Shraddha Kapoor.
Disappointed by his mother’s behaviour and the closeness he witnesses between his uncle and her, he also loses hope of finding his father. Arshia in the meanwhile, bumps into Roohdar a Pakistani agent played by Irrfan Khan, who has crossed over to Indian side of Kashmir. Through this deadly character, Arshia and Haider come to know of the detention centre where Dr. Meer spent his last days. Roohdar accuses Khurram for the arrest and detention of his brother. Haider is now obsessed with avenging his dad’s unnatural death. His disappointment is now turned into anger towards his mother and hatred towards his conniving uncle. Here the tragedy of Prince Hamlet begins to unfold.
Haider mental faculty is now in shambles. He wants to destroy his uncle, a budding politician who is the cause of his father’s death. He is surprised by his mother, who is flirting with a villain, as he sees his uncle. Arshia, the cute young fiancée is his support system. Her father is a top cop. The drama picks up here.
In the beginning of the movie, Haider is held by the army for a remark he makes of his hometown of Anantnag by calling it Islamabad. His fiancée comes to his rescue by flashing her ID card as that of a journalist and explains to the officer in charge that Haider is a poet returning home from Aligarh after his studies. This is one of the lighter scenes from the movie. In another scene, the army officer defends the excesses of the army on the mostly Muslim Kashmiri civilians. He says that and the expulsion of Hindu Kashmiri Pandits are the same. Two tragedies linked by an arrogant army officer, so to say!
Anyway the drama continues with Haider the pursuer, is now pursued by the security forces for his possession of a gun given by Roohdar, and that which has killed Arshia’s father, the top cop in that area. Needless to say Arshia is devastated by the tragedies unfolding in front of her. Meanwhile Haider aggress Roohdar’s proposal of getting trained in Pakistan to avenge his dad’s killing by the Indian armed forces. The backdrop of a beautiful Kashmir adds to the churning of the highly emotive drama. How Haider accomplished his final wishes is something to be watched. I am stopping myself here about the story of this hugely acclaimed drama.
In Hamlet there is the King, his Queen Gertrude, the Prince and the betraying character, the Uncle Claudius. The characters are Indian here, subtly playing their roles.
I must end here by saying a few things about the actors. I must admit Tabu and Shahid in particular have lived through their roles. They are what they are, the Queen and the Prince! Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Shraddha Kapoor who looks very cute as Arshia, too have performed to their best. Everyone else too, have done a marvellous job. Direction in top class and so are the locales. It is Kashmir after all!
If I had a chance, I would give this ten out of ten. Hence, watch this film in whatever way you can. On wide screen or DVD. It is worth every moment!
Reviewed by Jagdish KeshavJagdish Keshav is a writer/journalist with International media. A book of his, an anthology of stories was published last year by Authors Press. He has in the past resided in the US for around 20 years before returning to India. He comes from a family of writers/journalists.