Intro: Being the last adaption of the Shakespearean trilogy series by Vishal Bhardwaj, Haider is based on the famous tragedy of Shakespeare, Hamlet. The movie is nowhere close to being an adaption of the original story of Hamlet, infact, the story is woven and presented in the backdrop of Kashmir of 90’s and presents unseen aspects of militancy with bits of original story scattered here and there.
As Shakespeare quoted, ‘All that glitters is not gold’, Haider proves the same. Despite hypes, well-written reviews and most of all, director and producer Vishal Bhardwaj’s brand image of delivering the most stirring movies, Haider could not even reach the levels of what we all experienced while watching Maqbool and Omkara (Vishal’s other two movies that are based on the Shakespeare’s tragedies Macbeth and Othello respectively). The movie fails to meet viewers’ expectations with biased story, confused screenplay and superfluous songs. Acting is the only delight for which one can watch Haider.
Being the last adaption of the Shakespearean trilogy series by Vishal, Haider is based on the famous tragedy of Shakespeare, Hamlet. Haider is nowhere close to being an adaption of the original story of Hamlet, infact, the story is woven and presented in the backdrop of Kashmir of 90’s and presents unseen aspects of militancy with bits of original story scattered here and there. The movie revolves round the life of a Kashmiri student Haider, who studies poetry in Aligarh. His father, a famous doctor in the valley (Narendra Jha) is caught by Indian Army one day for treating and helping a terrorist, and eventually gets disappeared.
The journey of Haider begins when he comes back to find his burnt house and his mother living with his uncle. Rest of the movie shows the painful journey of Haider in revealing the truth behind his father’s disappearance and taking revenge from the actual culprit. Full of aggression, madness and anger, Haider finally takes revenge from his father’s murderer, his uncle, who in order to marry his mother conspired everything, by leaving him in a dreadful state.
During this journey, Haider goes through a lot. His love Arshiya (Shraddha Kapoor) believes and stands beside him only to lose her mental balance and commit suicide over her father’s accidental murder by Haider. The movie also picturises various shades of the Valley. However, few scenes look fake, for an instance the burnt house of Haider does not look real at all. I felt that the movie was struggling between the dramatic and realistic approach.
The movie also shows bias by showing Indian Army in a negative context and shade. After watching few scenes, two questions come up in the mind – First, if Indian Army finds anyone helping and promoting militancy, is it Army’s fault? Why should Army spare the person in the name of human rights? At least in Haider, his father was not caught for being innocent. Secondly, if you are so much concerned about disappeared Kashmiri Muslims and their human rights, what about Kashmiri Pandits who have lost everything, including their identity? Thank God, the second question is asked in the movie itself by an army officer (played by Ashish Vidyarthi). Moreover, the Kashmiri backdrop and issue adds to the already complex story, which is person-centric. Also, when Haider responds to the army officer’s question of his native place as Islamabad (which is clarified by Arshiya that in Kashmir, Anantnag is also known as Islamabad), the mindset of few people in Kashmir becomes clear. Showing the reality is not bad, but showing only one side of the coin in the name of reality cannot be accepted.
The original story (of Hamlet) undoubtedly is one of the finest stories told so far, however its adaptation and the screenplay is confusing and unclear. Acting and specially the actors who played various roles in the movie are an absolute delight to watch. From Shahid Kapoor to Tabu, Shraddha Kapoor, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan, Lalit Parimoo, Amir Bashir, Sumit Kaul, Rajat Bhagat and so on, all portray their characters magnificently. Dialogues are also well-written. Also, all artists have used good Kashmiri diction to generate authenticity. Music is average and disappoints Vishal’s ardent fans. Few songs seem to be unnecessarily added in the movie that breaks the intense flow of the story and adds unnecessary ‘masala’. Also, when the very sublime and intense story ends with a scene where a regretful mother blows herself and her surroundings with bombs, it leaves you with a distasteful feeling about the entire movie.
All said, Haider is a good one time watch for all those who watched Maqbool and Omkara just to feel satisfied that they have watched the entire trilogy. It can also be watched for the actors who have acted brilliantly. Those who have read and/or watched Hamlet, or are Vishal Bhardwaj’s fans (like me); it is an absolutely unsatisfactory experience.
Anshu Joshi (The writer is a Hyderabad based freelancer)