Haider (Shahid Kapoor) returns home to Kashmir on receiving the news of his father’s disappearance.
The story slowly unfolds as Haider learns that the security forces have detained his father for harbouring militants, and his mother (Tabu) is in a relationship with his own uncle (Kay Kay Menon). Arshi (Shraddha Kapoor), a journalist by profession, is Haider’s love interest.
As Haider learns that his uncle is responsible for the ghastly murder of his father, what follows is his journey to avenge his father’s death. Can Haider resolve his conflict – to be or not to be?
Haider is a difficult film. It was a difficult film to make. It was a difficult role for the actors to pursue. It was a difficult film to promote in the right way. Then when it comes to the release of the film, Haider is a difficult film for viewers to watch. It is also a difficult film to judge how good it is.
Haider needs to be followed right from the start. The audience needs to be fully switched on to understand Bhardwaj’s play in dialogues and the cleverly sequenced scenes.
Haider is indeed a very creatively crafted film to make, and few directors have mastered the skill to either haunt or disturb you throughout. However, whether the audience can follow the scenes through and digest what is occurring is a different matter.
|The film has a lot of content for the audience to digest and it stretches too much in the second half.|
|The actors all excel in their roles and absorb the authencity of their character. Shahid Kapoor delivers a standout performance.|
|Vishal Bhardwaj captures a genre that he excels in and provides his own flair to the Shakespearean tragedy.|
|Kashmir is shown realistically unlike how idealistic most of Bollywood portrays it to be.|
|May not be chart busters but the music fits well with the disturbing backdrop of the scenes.|
|Haider is a unique film that may or may not be everyone’s liking.|
There is a lot of content to digest in Haider; from the controversial issue of Kashmir’s civilians to the gory violent details that occur in the final scenes. However, if you can digest this and can deal with its slow pace stretching the film to 2 hours and 41 minutes, you can understand why the film is being called a ‘unique cinematic gem’.
Adapted from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Bhardwaj. The writing of the film was courageous in the way that it actually spoke about what’s happening in Kashmir and the struggle to capture its own identity.
Like many of Bhardwaj’s films, the film is laced with dark humour, such as the gravediggers scene which actually gives one goosebumps.
With regards to performances, all actors excelled in their roles and truly captured the different shades of their characters. This is undoubtedly Shahid’s best performance. Haider transports him away from his ‘chocolate boy’ image and shows him in a completely different light.
Bhardwaj has the skill to turn actors who are more known for their typical Bollywood hero/heroine prowess into theatrical style actors where their craft in portraying the role becomes important.
He has done so with Priyanka Chopra in Saat Khoon Maaf and previously with Shahid Kapoor in Kaminey. Bhardwaj’s hint of eccentricity in his characters is a key recipe in allowing the actors to deliver stand out performances.
Shraddha Kapoor goes somewhat unnoticed in several scenes particularly because there are so many other more dominating characters and messages that are coming across. Nonetheless, Shraddha is earnest in her role as Arshia.
Despite Irrfan Khan having minimal dialogue and screen presence, his short stint leaves a lasting impression.
Kay Kay Menon haunts you and Tabu plays the role of Shahid Kapoor’s mother well (even if you didn’t think she’s old enough to be the mother of Shahid). The vulnerability she brings on screen makes you wonder right until the end whether she’s a positive or negative character.
The music and background score are embedded well with the narrative and haunt you throughout.
Kashmir is captured intensely where the audience doesn’t just gain an insight into Kashmiri surroundings but also Kashmiri culture. We don’t see song and dance around the picturesque Dal lake but instead see the struggles of the people that inhabit them and a realistic portrayal of life there.
From a commercial point of view, Haider is a film that many people might give it a miss or stop watching midway. However, a true cinema lover and a fan of Vishal Bhardwaj’s noir tragedies will not want to miss this compelling treat.