Sunday, October 05, 2014

Haider- Something like a movie review

Enough has already been said in praise of Haider. And even though I have a degree in broadcast journalism with entertainment journalism as a subject, I have absolutely no idea of how to write a review.

But then again, Bhardwaj movies always want to make me write. He is one of those few able directors whose work can actually make me overcome my legendary sloth and actually think. Its a huge deal trust me. If you ever come across him. Let him know that. He'll be overwhelmed I am sure.

Haider as is well known is an adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies, Hamlet. Vishal Bhardwaj, by and large remains loyal to the original plot and set of characters. Even the court jesters and grave diggers have not been ignored. His use of creative freedom is enormous but constrained at the same time.  Also his choice of a backdrop couldn't have been better. Kashmir was not an excellent choice because of its picturesque and pristine beauty to enrich the frames. It is because it provides the perfect reflection and cause for the protagonists turmoil. His agony, his battle with himself and the circumstances which conspire to exploit his hamartia (tragic flaw) to make his tragedy complete.

Haider, the young protagonist of the film is given a cold welcome by his beautiful and bloodied valley. His home has been razed to the ground, his father has mysteriously disappeared and his mother has been wooed by his uncle. This Kashmir is a land that has been bathed in blood. Marred by terrorism, insurgency, counter insurgency and separatist issues, where fire and fear have become a way of life for the people. Amidst all this, Haider embarks on a journey in search of his father and thus unfolds a story of love, lies, betrayal and death.

One of the most striking aspects of the movie is complexity of relationships between the main characters. The emotional intensity of the interaction between Haider and his mother Ghazala, the twisted love affair between Ghazala and Khurram, the gentle love story of Haider and Arshia, the bonding between Haider and his father Hilal. There are oedipal undertones and multiple layers in every character. The spectrum of emotions which the characters deal in is so sensitive that even the slightest under or over expression could have ruined the film completely. Yet under Bharadwaj's able direction, the actors render brilliant performances. Shahid's portrayal of Haider's turmoils, confusion, madness, passion, love and hatred is almost flawless. Menon takes up Khurram effortlessly. Shraddha as Arshia remains subtle but firm in her role. But it is unarguably Tabu as Ghazala who takes away the show. Her love, her inner battles, her guilt and her destruction are so hard hitting that it will leave you thinking about her for a long time afterwards. No other actress could have done this sort of justice to the role of Ghazala as Tabu has done.

Haider has been narrated like a beloved heart wrenching piece of poetry. It is a film filled with exquisite moments. The song behind the curtains, the conversation in autumn, the numbered grave, AFSPA and chutzpa on the crossroads, the kiss on the neck, the sharing of bed, the song of betrayal, the making and unmaking of the red muffler, the prayer. These moments are seamlessly woven in the warp and weft of the story and lend the movie a very distinct charm.

I am not very good at pointing out flaws in the movie. I judge a movie by how I feel the moment it ends. Haider for me was a piece of art. It left me shocked and moved. One might complain that the movie is slow and long but as someone who is fond of literature I wouldn't have wanted the director compromise or cut down the original plot for commercial considerations.

And as I sat watching Haider in the cinema hall today, I could almost feel it tracing the lines of a masterpiece I had seen 18 years ago. The movie's background score was given by Bhardwaj himself. It also portrayed the inner battle of an innocent and sensitive youth and his transformation into a murderer. The backdrop of the film was also a land torn by insurgency and mindless bloodshed. But most importantly it had the same woman infusing life, breath and pathos into every frame making it an extraordinary work of art. Tabu.

The fire that burns in Bhardwaj's Haider seems to have been ignited by Gulzar's Maachis. Maachis had left a deep impression on my mind even as a seven year old. When I subsequently saw the movie in my later years, I was able to grasp the true genius of Gulzar. Haider left a very similar impression on me. Hauntingly beautiful and profoundly disturbing, it strangely reminded me of a famous line in the poem, Easter 1916 by Yeats.
"All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."


PS- Background score is amazing but not overpowering. Blends well and complements really well. Every song is distinct in character and moving in spirit.

I have no stars to give to Haider but I do hope it receives all the recognition it so rightly deserv


  1. Read your review last night soon after I put out mine...
    Ellaborate, descriptive and great flow of words.

    P.S. I too don't wish to rate a movie like this in terms of stars. Its much more than that.

  2. Thank you Anirudh. :)
    Yes indeed..Haider was a piece of art.

  3. Loved what something like a review you've written. And couldn't agree more.