Our cinema is lame, old school and cheesy, I’ve heard many Indians (wannabe foreigners) say that. The easiest way to shut them up: Haider.
Vishal Bhardwaj should seriously change his surname to ‘Bard’waj, he’s undoubtedly an artist par excellence. I always knew his artistry is somewhat distinct, be it his music or his films and especially after watching Kaminey, as I still haven’t seen Omkara and Maqbool (Yes, I admit, I’m a jerk) but after Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, I was in doubt. Maybe he wasn’t that perfect. Maybe? Then came Haider.
The trailer itself got me going and since I’ve read about Hamlet, I just couldn’t wait for the film. I didn’t expect THIS. I didn’t expect it to be my best Bollywood experience. The goosebumps after the film got over stayed with me till I got up today. Never been bowled over like this, never shook so much. Haider inspired me as an aspiring filmmaker, not just inspired, but made me question myself: “If this is filmmaking, do I really have the potential to create something like Haider?”
I don’t think anyone has the capability to do what Vishal Bhardwaj did. I won’t talk about the plot of the film because I would really want people to watch it, instead, I would talk about the craft.
Hamlet is Shakespeare’s longest play with over 4,000 lines and it’s one of the toughest ones to adapt. It’s actually endless and full of tragedies, but the way Bhardwaj has done justice to it, it deserves a standing ovation. Recreating the magic and setting it up in Kashmir, who would have thought? Highlighting the inhumanity of the Indian Army on Kashmiris, who would have thought? Equating AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a law granting armed forces immunity from prosecution while operating in the militancy-hit areas) and chutzpah, who would have thought? You need balls to talk about such issues in a country like India and when you do it through a film, the balls need to get bigger. You never know who starts protesting about what. What a brave chutzpah!
It wouldn’t have been a masterpiece, if it wouldn’t have been perfect in all its departments. Pankaj Kumar’s eyes helped us see Kashmir in the minutest form and his cinematography is the backbone of this film. The first half seems long because Kumar beautifies Kashmir, as the plot keeps unfolding. It’s a cinematic experience, it’s a beautiful treat. The lyrics, the dialogues, the background score, the music, the casting and the performances: Haider is like a painting, a moving painting. It moves for 162 minutes and creates magic.
The musical play in the form of Bismil is one of the highlights. The beautiful lyrics by Gulzar Sahib, Sukhvinder Singh’s voice and Shahid’s presence: All this was enough to convey and depict what they had to.
This film would have fallen flat if there was even a single glitch, specially in terms of its performances. But that can’t happen if you have a casting director like Mukesh Chhabra. He’s bang on, once again. From the junior artists to the supporting artists, the protagonists to the antagonists, to the special appearances-Bang on!
Bhardwaj played with the characters so beautifully that I’m sure Shakespeare would’ve been proud to watch this rendition.
Sumit Kaul and Rajat Bhagat, as Salman 1 and 2 played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet and Bhardwaj placed them so brilliantly that they really managed to leave an impact. Another thing: Salman Khan’s presence always works, be it directly or indirectly.
Narendra Jha, as Dr. Hilal Meer played Hamlet’s father and he is so poetically endearing that it makes your heart cringe, after you get to know about his brother’s tricks.
Irrfan Khan has a ‘REALLY’ short appearance, as Roohdar (the ghost identity from Hamlet), but is he good? Or IS HE GOOD? His screen presence, dialogue delivery and versatility-when these three things come together, there’s magic on screen. Though he had a short part, his character was one of the most important ones. He’s his usual best.
Aamir Bashir, as Arshia’s brother played Laertes and Ashwath Bhatt, as Zahoor (the militant) played Fortinbras:Both were perfect.
Lali Parimoo, as Arshia’s father and Polonius from Hamlet had a really important bit too. He’s an experienced actor who slipped into the character perfectly and is brilliant.
Coming to the main cast-the soul of the film.
Shraddha Kapoor, as Arshia and Ophelia from Hamlet is magical. Finally the actor in her is out. Her beautiful eyes speak more than her. The innocence of her character, the fun and caring Arshia, it all came out well and the scene when she’s devastated after her father’s demise:Shraddha does magic. Her best till date. Kay Kay Menon, as Khurram and the evil Claudius from the play is class apart. It’s a well known fact that Menon is one of the most underrated actors we have, someone who’s as talented as Irrfan Khan but he never got his due. Haider should put a break on that, as Menon has outdone Claudius by making him his own. The versatility and confidence Menon shows, it’s horrific-in a good way. The last shot where he’s shouting and crying out loud, pleading Haider to kill him, it’ll chuckle your bones. Shahid Kapoor, the Hamlet-the Haider is decent. He’s decently superlative. He’s decently one of the best actors of our generation. He’s decently better than the rest. Earlier, I wonder why he spoiled his own career? This man did Phata Poster Nikla Hero, this man did R..Rajkumar, this man did all the stupid movies you would think of and then, he’s even done Jab We Met, Kaminey and now Haider. People wrote him off, forgetting that acting is in his genes. Haider should be the game changer for him. You see Pankaj Kapur in him, you see the passion in him, you finally see the ‘actor.’ Hamlet is an actor’s dream, it’s the toughest character to portray. This one character has so many shades to it and Shahid outdoes himself in each and every frame. From his diction to his body language, his ‘bloody-fucking intense’ eyes to his controlled humorous side:He does it all. He lives Hamlet, it shows. Give this man a national award, give this man what he deserves. He’s not just a good-looking man who dances like a star, he’s an actor, he’s an artist.
Saved the best for last-Haider wouldn’t have been this without Tabu. She plays Ghazala, Haider’s mother-Gertrude from Hamlet. The mother in dilemma! Ghazala has many traits to her, but at the end of the day she’s a very caring woman. Tabu takes this to another level. She loves two people who dislike each other and wants to satisfy both, hence the conflict kicks in. Tabu is THE BEST thing about Haider and trust me, she understood each and every nuance of Gertrude and played it with perfection. You can see it in her eyes, that she’s Ghazala. Even as Ghazala, she’s told to go to National School Of Drama by Haider, haha-that’s how good an actress she is. A scene where she tries to convince Haider to surrender, Tabu kills it without any hiccups-Although Haider has shades of Oedipus Complex, it has been smartly toned down by Bhardwaj keeping our audience in mind, but Tabu and Shahid have played that bit so wonderfully that it’s unreal.
Vishal Bhardwaj and Basharat Peer have written Haider so beautifully that even though it’s adapted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it has its own shades and has fit in perfectly. Compared to Hamlet, there are many changes in Haider, most importantly the climax. Haider’s climax is gut wrenching. Revenge creates revenge and revenge is not always the solution, how beautifully has this been portrayed? Haider’s love for his mother overpowers the hatred he had for his uncle and that moment defines art. A tear swept down. Goosebumps, yes!
And the dark humour has been incorporated brilliantly, it’s so brilliant that you can’t put it in words. From the Salman-Salman bit to Arshia’s English accent. From the scene where Roohdar fools a random man who wasn’t going inside his house to even the graveyard sequences, where we see a beautiful version of ‘Aao-Na.’ And the last scene, after the blast-when we see those destroyed human bodies and the cut off hands-RESPECT.
And for the people who feel Haider is ‘copied’ from Hamlet: It’s an adaptation. Adaption of a play, a play that is a part of literature. People who do theatre, they do plays on Hamlet and that doesn’t mean they’ve copied it. So yes, Vishal Bhardwaj is an artist, a gem and Haider is one of the best films I’ve seen till date. Kudos to UTV and all the producers who had the guts to produce this film, it’s a masterpiece.