I sat for 50 minutes staring at my computer screen before I could write a word. I didn’t know where to start or what to write. The movie ‘Haider’ has that effect on you. It’s a rare film, something you might have never come across.
In the mid-90s when the militancy had surged in the beautiful Kashmir valley, we see a surgeon, Dr. Hilal Meer saving the life of a militant. He gets caught and disappears to one of the various secretive camps allegedly run by the Indian Army. His young son Haider (Shahid Kapoor) returns home only to find that not only his father has disappeared but also his mother Gazala (Tabu), who is now a half-widow (that’s what a wife of a disappeared man is called), instead of being devastated is finding solace in the arms of her brother-in-law Khurram Meer (Kay Kay Menon). Haider wants to know the real truth about his father – whether he is alive or dead. In his journey, he meets some interesting people, some of which are his genuine well-wishers while some are conspirators. Is he able to find the truth? Does he realize who is by his side and who is not? They are difficult questions; you need to watch the movie to find that out.
Shahid Kapoor as Haider has done a tremendous job. He has played various nuances in the film and played them effortlessly. I couldn’t have thought of a better Haider. His emotions as a confused, helpless, grieving, obsessed, insane and violent son have been laid bare for all to see. Tabu is the heart of the film. The beautiful ‘Mojhi’ of Haider is a complex woman. She is not your regular widow who howls and cries herself to death; she is a temptress and a woman searching for love and fulfillment of desires. But she is also a mother who lives for her son and can go to any lengths to save him. Kay Kay Menon has done a convincing job but he is getting stereotyped in his bad-ass roles. Irrfan Khan as Roohdar sets the wheels in motion with his short but important role. Shraddha Kapoor (Arshia) plays a journalist and also the love interest of Haider. Though a short role, she has delivered a powerful performance.
But the actual hero of the movie is the script that is jointly written by Vishal Bharadwaj and Kashmiri journalist-author Basharrat Peer. The movie is an adaption of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and portrays a strong story of trust and betrayal. It has black elements to it, particularly the scene where grave-diggers are shown digging the graves and lying inside them as it were the most normal thing to do. The dialogues are power-packed. Words are used with care and thought; there is no scope for frivolity. There are a few lighter moments though like the Salman Khan fanboys and ill-pronounced English words by Arshia. Every scene looks like a picture frame, so beautiful and full of life. On the minuses, the length of the film gets to you, especially in the second half; the film loses its thread a bit and lowers its pace. Also, certain gory scenes could have been avoided. However, the climax of the film is completely unimaginable and leaves you shocked.
The film hooks you from the moment it starts. If you thought it was just another film on Kashmir insurgency, have another think coming. The film passes a strong message, but it is done subtly too. If you get it, good for you! If not, well, then good for you! The landscape is the same, the people have changed. The beauty is the same, the beholders have changed. It must be the first Indian film that doesn’t malign Pakistan. On the contrary, it targets closer home; the Indian Army that heaps down atrocities on the Kashmiri citizens.
Caution: Watch the movie at your risk. It might haunt you, forever.
Verdict: Such films don’t come every day. You might not want to miss it.