It’s been nearly 24 hours since I saw Haider but still can’t get the movie off my head. It’s that kind of film that you brood over a cup of coffee, sleep thinking over it for a long long time. One of the few things I loved about my school was the fact that we were taught Shakespeare’s original plays – the plots that were ahead of times, the words that were often not found in English dictionary, the characters that were beautifully complex and political, unabashed in their approach. There was something very heart rendering in his comedy but his tragedies was like that lucid poetry that murmured the music of pain.
Another subject that has always fascinated has been Kashmir and its history. The beautiful, picturesque Kashmir haunted by terrorism, militancy, silently witnessing the dance of death in the valley made me wonder- can irony be more cruel than that blood stains against the snow, which apparently is white and supposedly symbolises peace. Incidentally the poster of Haider also goes on to depict the same. And hence when Shakespeare’s probably the hardest hitting tragedy Hamlet (some may feel its Othello) founds its new home in Kashmir, it had to be tale so riveting that was bound to spellbind you. The symbolic elements then almost forms part of the story to take it forward.
The tale of Kashmir always had two sides, rather four sides – Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmiri Pandits, Indian Army and Terrorism. And somewhere they all criss-crossed each other’s lives in the worst possible way to create a maddening ruckus, that was nearly uncontrollable. It is nearly impossible to make apolitical film on Kashmir, hence one must laud the honesty, Haider chose to adopt to tell its story, even though it may be perspective of one side. Whether we like it or not and how much we love our Indian Army, there was always the other side of the story, how much we feign ignorance. A tale of horror that can give us goose bumps. Vishal chose to make that as background to adapt Hamlet and tell us the story of Haider. The story is less about the political environment and more about that personal choices the characters make in cognizance of the macro scenario that led them to the fate, which they willingly or unwillingly destined for.
The sombre mood sets in the movie from the very first scene and the movie gets darker by the moment – a raw undercurrent that the movie retains in its powerful as well as the silent moments is something incredible to capture – as if at every corner a tragedy is waiting to happen. The only ray of hope and smile was then the Arshia (Ophelia) whose eye reflects nothing but innocence and love for Haider. She was like that only flower somewhere still holding its fort in the snow, perhaps waiting for the spring to happen. She personifed the beautiful valley of Kashmir- silently torned between conflicting minds, unable to chose – in this case between her childhood love and doting father – faltering her way to a fate of no return. The red color of love got substituted by blood instead. Its then justified her fate was more beautifully depicted, more poetic than a sudden rush of blood. In the original, Ophelia met her fate slowly leaving behind a writhing heart. Jhelum, then should have been the place of her unison with fate, which otherwise again was used beautifully as a silent witness to observe the tragedy unfold almost in her bosom.
While Arshia, Khurram, Dr. Meer all were integral catalysts - but this story is about Haider and her step mother Gazala played respectively by Shahid and Tabu. It is a tale of mother in love with her son and the woman possessive about the man in her son. In one of the boldest movie in recent times, Haider and Gazala portrayed a relationship that was– Deliciously complex, passionate, vulnerable and full of insecurity, hence one can’s avoid a smile when Gazala heart-achingly complains that Haider loved his father more than her. While Haider wanted to avenge his father’s death from his uncle Khurram, one may debate whether he hated him more as he dared to take away the woman, the mother he almost owned in every sense – Gazala. One wished little more back-story between young Haider and her mother was shown to help the audience explore the depth of the relationship.
The world will never know why Gazala chose to marry her brother-in-law Khurram, was it camaraderie, security or love – it appeared more as a brazen act of a protective woman in secured about her son Haider – the only man she probably loved and wanted to save from the entire world. The undercurrent and body language displayed by Shahid and Tabu, while portraying their relationship is truly magnetic and fascinating. It is then, the half baked love making scene between Arshia and Haider sticks like a sore thumb – thanks to the Censors.
Post 42 cuts by the Censor, if the film still managed to remain so so powerful and unnervingly raw, one would love to see the original getting released some day. One can’t blame the censor board given the unwarranted so called sensitivity certain sect of audience (actually people of Political groups) may display last thing one needs is a “Chutzpah” around this beautiful piece of literature. While making a political statement, the film is beautifully restraint and essentially makes a statement through the words of Dr. Hilaal Meer (Haider’s father when confronted whose side he was: Main to zindagi ki taraaf hoon. Vishal Bharadwaj paints its masterpiece through it narrative, choreography, music and setting– the effect is mesmerizing and more compelling than a hundred vodka shots would ever do. From the Dal Lake to the beautiful Jhelum to the coffin – each place had a story to tale – a story of love, betrayal and death.
A narrative is incomplete without its soul – and in this case it is its characters Vishal sketches remarkably. The unpredictability in each of them what makes them fascinating and menacing at the same time. While Kay Kay displays a masterly wily act and Shraddha manages to pull off an impressive act, for me the film belongs to Shahid Kapoor – who displays divine raw power, especially in that song and the monologue – Hum hain ki hum nahi - in an unbelievably brilliant act. One often says of bringing method to madness, here Shahid just does the reverse. And what a contrast remains Gazala - the evergreen Tabu,whose act is like Frost’s poetry – beautiful, heart-breaking, sublime and the one captivates your soul. That makes the climax even more powerful than one ever thought it would be. Sometimes there is a joy in pain too – Haider is exactly that, which you never want to miss........
N.B The images used are from Google Images