Movie review: Haider is a rare Bollywood gem you shouldn't miss

  • Sweta Kaushal, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 05, 2014 11:06 IST




Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Shraddha Kapoor


Vishal Bhardwaj



Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider goes where Bollywood rarely treads: the movie based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet goes beyond clichés on Kashmir and its characters aren't trying to be entertaining.

The movie tells the story of Haider (Shahid) who finds out that his peace-loving, life-saving doctor father (Narendra Jha) has been arrested by the Indian Army. He returns from Aligarh (where he was studying poetry, a passion he shares with his father) to realise that his mother (Tabu) and uncle (Kay Kay Menon) are behind a conspiracy that resulted in his father's disappearance.

We have seen in Maqbool and Omkara how wonderfully Bhardwaj takes up the bard's plays and weaves them passionately into a completely different cultural milieu. With Haider, Vishal does better. The film paints Kashmir in a haunting colour, so true to the troubles there. The usual whites and dark hues of frames are there in the Valley (usual in cinematic sense when you portray dark emotions) but even the colourful frames blaringly outline the feelings of revengeful, hurt and disturbed souls.

Bhardwaj and Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer co-wrote the film's screenplay and they must be praised for their courage to speak strongly about what is happening in Kashmir. Haider goes beyond Bollywood's Pakistan bashing for Kashmir's troubles and speaks about the alleged atrocities of the Indian Army on Kashmiris. Haider jokes about 'chutzpah'--pronounced as 'chootspaa' in the movie--and equates it to AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the security law which gives armed forces immunity from prosecution while operating in the militancy-hit areas but has been criticised by human rights groups).

As for performances, Vishal Bhardwaj brings out the best of Shahid Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor, a journalist in the movie. Shahid looks a little out of place in the beginning but the traumatic role rubs onto him with time. Shahid's acting in Haider could well undo his several Bollywood mistakes (read Phata Poster Nikhla Hero and the likes).

Movie review: Haider is intense, disturbing, and not your regular Bollywood movie

Tabu plays the role of a traumatised and hurt soul who is searching for peace and love wonderfully. Kay Kay Menon is mesmerising with his menacing and conniving looks. Narendra Jha is impressive as the doctor who in his bid to save lives ends up being branded as a militancy supporter. Even the smallest of characters, faces that appear just for a shot, impress you as much as the actors with full-fledged roles. In one scene, Shahid meets an old woman at a government office where they have both come searching for their missing family members. The woman shows the picture of a young man and Shahid shows his father's picture: the traumatised-and-caring look on the woman's face as she touches Shahid's head is striking.

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Watch Shahid, the bruised soul in Haider

Bhardwaj picks the drama of human follies from Shakespeare's works and places them in a completely different scenario, but he stays true to the emotions of the bard's works. The director ensures that the emotions of a troubled soul (Haider), subtle sexual undertones of the mother-son duo relation, the eternal human follies of treachery and adultery are showcased on the canvas of his cinema.

The music and background score go hand-in-hand with the narrative and scaringly haunt you throughout. The romantic number Khul Kabhi To seems a bit misplaced and is distracting. The ending to the song, however, brings you back to the traumatised cinematic experience that Haider is.

Watch the film for Vishal Bhardwaj's direction, dialogues and touching acting prowess that almost everyone in Haider shows. Skip it if an intense, disturbing film is not your cup of tea or if entertainment is what you seek at movie theatres.

Follow the author Twitter/SwetaKaushal.

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