Set against the backdrop of mid-nineties Kashmir, “Haider”- a cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet- is a hard-hitting, soul touching and misfit for all cinematic definitions or formulas of typical Bollywood film. Kashmir in 1995 was on peak of uncalled terrorist activities and the victim of massive fight between two regular rivals. When AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958) was considered to be the necessity by Indians and an unwanted mercenary by Kashmiris, “Haider” turns out to be the elegantly orchestrated vicious opera.
Director Vishal Bharadwaj has attempted to recreate Shakespearean tragedies in Indian environment twice before. “Maqbool” was based on Macbeth set in Mumbai Underworld and “Omkara” was based on Othello set in Lawless land of UP. This sure has helped him to change the tone by visiting the almost forbidden part of India. This film successfully manages to draw attention to the volatile issues in Kashmir as well as doesn’t lose the string of story.
Against this violent setting, film’s protagonist Haider Mir (Shahid Kapoor) returns to Srinagar from Aligarh University after the disappearance of his father Dr. Hilal Mir (Narendra Jha). As Dr. Hilal is accused of helping the militants, he is taken into custody for interrogation and never seen again. This leaves Ghazala (Tabu), Haider’s mother in jeopardy. Khurram Mir (Kay Kay Menon) is uncle of Haider and has a flame for Ghazala. Rest of the film is beautifully crafted piece of art, exploring each and every character’s different shades.
Director Vishal Bharadwaj is also an acclaimed music director. He has this knack of setting his film like an orchestra. It has various ups and downs. May it be a flashback sequence or a dance number; he manages to convince audience of its necessity. Film has an undercurrent of ‘Pulp Fiction’ and it has been carried pretty well. Cinematography by Pankaj Kumar is just awesome.
Half the battle was won when he casted excellent actors for their respective roles. Everybody shines in their own zone, never overshadowing others. Cameo by Irrfan Khan as Ruhdar can be called as the most well acted cameo in any Hindi film. His dedication and understanding of a 10 minutes role is visible. Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor) plays love interest of Haider. She has not much to do but when she is on-screen, her presence is felt. A particular scene in which she is trying to pronounce ‘-ed’, her innocence oozes through her eyes. Kay Kay Menon is India’s one of the most talented actor is again underlined here. Even two Salmans don’t go unnoticed.
This film is bold. Not sensuously but in the context. It does not fear to raise the issues that were forbidden for even talks. Mother-son relationship and its incestuous corned never gets vulgar. The volatile issue of Kashmiri youth turning militant or even the malpractice of power is presented heavily.
After second half, few could have been easily edited. But this little flaw can be ignored. Though not typical masala film, it uses elements such as confrontation of villain through song (Ek Hasina Thi- Karz). Haider is a feast for Shahid Kapoor fans. “Kaminey” proved his mettle, but this film is feather in his crown. Shahid understands Haider well and lives it.
Even if the film is titled “Haider”, it is the story of every single character in the film. This film is like a well made Muffler. Many tiny strings of wool are nicely sewn together hold each other tightly. Though 160 minutes long, it will leave you satisfied.