Haider: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Chutzpah

Haider: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Chutzpah
Haider: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Chutzpah
Written by:

Varad Sharma | October 6, 2014 | 10:53pm IST

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After years, I watched first day first show of a Bollywood film. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet based in Kashmir valley. It is the story of a son’s pursuit for his missing father. Set in 1995, the protagonist of the film is Haider Meer played by actor Shahid Kapoor whose father Dr. Hilal Meer gets disappeared after crackdown by Indian Army which leaves Haider’s mother Ghazala (Tabu) half-widow. Later on, Haider’s father is found murdered. Shraddha Kapoor, as Arshia who is a journalist, is the Ophelia of Haider.

 Through Arshia, Haider meets Roohdar (Irrfan Khan) who is a Pakistani militant. Roohdar tells Haider that the person responsible for his father’s disappearance and murder is his own uncle Khurram Meer (Kay Kay Menon). Khurram marries Ghazala after the death of Haider’s father. Will Haider revenge his father’s murder, after knowing that Khurram killed his father and married his mother? Will Haider kill Khurram or not, that is the question?

Haider is Shahid Kapoor’s best performance till date while Shraddha Kapoor is fine. Irrfan Khan is impressive in his short role. Kay Kay Menon as Khurram is powerful. The eloquent Tabu again proves her versatility that she can do any role. The background score and the cinematography add to the drama. ‘Bismil’ song shot at the historic 8th century Sun Temple at Martand in Kashmir encompasses the entire story of the film.

Haider is a bold attempt to show turbulent Kashmir of 1995. Vishal Bhardwaj captures the ‘Azadi’ sentiment prevalent in the valley (though not all want Azadi in Kashmir) which is manifested by Shahid Kapoor’s monologue at the Srinagar city’s square. There is 'Chutzpah/AFSPA', ‘Separatists India Se Azadi Nahi, Pakistan Se Ghulami Maang Rahe Hain’, 'Hum Hain Ki Hum Nahin', ‘Hum Kya Chahte, Azadi’ in the film which indicates the political scenario in the valley. It attempts to show the excesses and alleged human rights violation committed by Indian Army. Though there is not a word on terrorism which engulfed the entire valley in 1990s. The film gives an impression that Indian Army is the negative element present in the valley. It fails to tell that Indian Army is the peace-keeper in the valley. In the end of the film, Indian Army gets a token mention for their rescue operations in recent floods in Jammu and Kashmir.   

Haider shows a part of larger Kashmir conflict rather the consequences of it. It tells you about disappearances, half widows, unmarked graves, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA). There are many stories in Kashmir valley which need attention, which has been forgotten, which nobody cares to look into. Thousands of security forces which include Indian Army, Border Security Force (BSF), Jammu and Kashmir Police, and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have laid down their lives protecting the people of the valley. Terrorism in Kashmir led to ethnic cleansing of around four to five lakh Kashmiri Hindus from their homeland. I hope someday Bollywood attempts to make films on the other stories from Kashmir valley.

Shraddha Kapoor struggles hard to sing lines of a Kashmiri song ‘Butinoye Doorer Chouni Zarai, Bal Marayo’. Likewise, lines of another Kashmiri folk song ‘Roshe Walla Myane Dilbaro, Poshan Bahar Aa Yoor Walo’ by Tabu & Kay Kay Menon lack proper diction. I was expecting better diction of the Kashmiri lines given the fact that the film is co-written by Basharat Peer who is a Kashmiri. May be he was more busy in focusing on the script (especially portrayal of Indian Army) that he forgot to pay heed to it. 

I also wonder why Bollywood film-makers don’t approach Kashmiri singers to sing Kashmiri lines. Remember ‘Urzu Urzu Durkut’ song in Yahaan, a film by Shoojit Sircar? It is actually ‘Orzuv, Orzuv Dorkuth’.

The film has evoked mixed reactions across the country. On social media, Facebook and Twitter, many people are protesting against Haider and demanding its boycott because it shows Indian Army in bad light. Well, boycotting is a personal choice. In a democratic set-up, everyone is free to choose his/her subject for making a film. What needs to be understood is that Indian Army as an institution stands tall and it will continue to do so. It is noteworthy that on Twitter there has been a call for ‪’Boycott Haider’ instead of ‘‎Ban Haider’‬ (as per the Twitter trend); a progress towards freedom of expression. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Haider is Vishal Bhardwaj’s chutzpah. Watch Haider for the drama, Vishal Bhardwaj’s direction, the performances by its actors, and the stunning cinematography.

Varad Sharma is a writer. You can follow him on twitter : 

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