An adaptation of William Shakespear’s Hamlet set amidst war-stricken Kashmir that was under the control of AFSPA, Bharadwaj created a script that stayed true to the core of Hamlet’s story and at the same time, it is an insight into the plight of the people in Kashmir.
Haider is the story of a young man who lost a bright future due to the negligence of his father (while trying to do something right), betrayal of his mother and war. The movie starts with an intense sequence of Dr. Meer treating a notorious terrorist. His wife Ghazala (Tabu) fear for their safety as Kashmir is like prison house of AFSPA where anything and everything can wrong. Her worries turn out to be true when Dr. Meer is eventually arrested for aiding with the terrorists. Before taking him away, the army blows up Dr. Meer’s house with him and his wife watching, in tears. Bharadwaj introduced their world with intense vehement. After learning about the bombing of his house, Haider (Shahid Kapoor) returns from Aligarh university. He reunites with his love interest Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor) who takes him to his demolished home. We see him mentally scarred and he tries to hide it by distracting himself. Arshia calms him down with a kiss. Haider’s life was never the same before he left and his only sense of solace was his father. He sets off to find his father against all odds while he loathes Ghazala’s affair with her brother-in-law Khurram (Kay Kay Menon). While trying to find his father, Haider is exposed to the world he was not aware of and then things change. For worse.
While Bharadwaj gave us a well-executed screenplay and haunting background music, it is acting that deserves the crown. Shahid Kapoor delivered the best performance of his career. Shedding the chocolate-boy image we knew from Ishk vishk, vivaah and jab we met, he acted his heart out and we get to experience the infuriating emotions & quest for vengeance through his passionate acting. We see him change from guiltless young man to a scarred individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is quite understood that Bharadwaj wanted to enhance the “Oedipus complex” part of Haider’s relationship with his mother by casting someone with aura and charming like Tabu. It is no surprise that Tabu stole every scene she’s in with her striking portrayal of a woman who loves Haider, desires Khurram and is guilt-ridden (not giving anything away). Shraddha added to soul with her simplicity and controlled acting. KayKay Menon has established himself as one of the most versatile and underrated actors in Bollywood. It nice to see him get the recognition for this role as Khurram Meer, the man who betrayed. Another person who deserves the glass of champagne is Irrfan Khan, someone who never failed the audience and their expectations. He plays a small yet important role as Roohdaar, the messenger (not giving anything away for your own good). Whether it is 2 hours or 2 minutes, he always stuck to his ease and became whoever it is written for him.
The combination of cinematography and editing is adept and conveyed the raw emotions of the characters and situations. One of the major reasons why I enjoyed this film is because I never compared it with Hamlet. While we get to see many similarities, Haider has it’s own tone and desirable moments; for eg the song “Bismil” (the choreography’s exemplary), the scene where Haider pleads to Ghazala asking her assure him that his father’s alive, Roohdaar’s narration about his time in MAMA 2 detention centre, Haider’s stand up speech about law & order and finally, the intriguing climax.The film has a dark tone and it kept us at the edge of our seats no matter how disturbing the story turns out to be. It is one of the best films of 2014.
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