Review: Haider


Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, Haider (Shahid Kapoor) – a young man returns home to Kashmir on receiving news of his father’s disappearance. Not only does he learn that security forces have detained his father for harboring militants, but that his mother Ghazala (Tabu) is in a relationship with his very own uncle Khurram (Kay Kay Menon). Intense drama follows between mother and son as both struggle to come to terms with news of his father’s death. Soon Haider learns that his uncle is responsible for the gruesome murder, what follows is his journey to avenge his father’s death. Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor) is a journalist by profession and Haider’s love-interest.

Shakespearean purism aside, Haider is a thrilling film. It is a film of luxuriant paranoia. It is about Oedipal love. Unlike the cardboard insurgency imagery or images of damaged beauty that soak most films about Kashmir, Haider is an unflinching take on the Kashmir malaise, the tragedy infused with a sense of dark humor about the ordinary Kashmiri’s hopelessness.

Compared to Bhardwaj’s earlier two Shakespeare adaptations, Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello), both of which depended heavily on language and dialogues and used Shakespeare’s stories rather conveniently to propel the plot, Haider is a quieter yet richer spectacle and a convincing standalone piece. Bhardwaj chooses bold strokes over gloomy introspection, and in that sense, Haider is in the tradition of mainstream Hindi cinema.

Shahid Kapoor plays with impressive zest and inventiveness, is more a dashing, combustible figure than a brooder. Bhardwaj also does away with the supernatural horror so integral to the original play, and which can be an easy tool for creating suspense and drama in cinema. The horror is in the everyday macabre reality of death, loss and waiting, and in the manipulation of a Kashmiri Muslim’s emotions and insecurities.

Tabu is impressive and refreshing to watch after a long comeback. Shraddha Kapoor manages the role of pretty innocence well enough, but will probably cringe when she watches her own histrionics. Kay Kay Menon, and Irfan Khan of course are a pleasure to watch.

Haider is an immensely effective re imagination of Shakespeare — and the film’s biggest triumph is that the provincial, in this case Kashmir and the characters defined by its reality, shine in a universal and timeless tragedy.