Haider – Snail-paced, melodramatic, formulaic yet classy!!!!!

Rarely do I watch movies a second time. Yes, I do see a glimpse of the scene while it is being premiered on TV. Be it in any language, in general the movies made in the 21st century fall into a single category -“#NOT_WORTH_WATCHING_TWICE”. That’s why filmmakers tend to justify their space by barking about their past glories and force the viewer in witnessing the sequels, prequels and remakes. And thus; the novelty of an idea being transformed into a movie becomes a rarity.

This is where “Haider” scores big – even when not in being an “original”. That “Haider” is an adaptation of “Hamlet” doesn’t disqualify itself from breaking new ground. Narrating an inquisitive Shakespearean drama in the Kashmir-platform which already raises too many questions in itself triggers the “I doubt if” factor in every viewer. In one scene the protagonist says “sawaal ka jawaab bhi ek aur sawaal hain” catches the very essence of the neutral mankind’s attitude towards kashmir dispute.

In the movie, Haider returns home to witness his mom Ghazala Meer openly accepting the flirtatious Khurram Meer who happens to be her husband’s (Dr.Hilal Meer) brother. In the opening sequences, a militant group seeks shelter & treatment for their leader in the doctor’s home. The doctor treats his patient – whether out of medical ethics or out of his bias towards ‘Kashmir’s Independence’ is camouflaged by the circumstance itself. The Indian army takes the doctor into their custody & burns down his home only to capture the militant dead.

On his return, Haider pursues his conquest for finding his dad in the army detention camps hoping that he’s still alive. He represents a group which has been doing so for their sons, husbands, friends and brothers. Meanwhile, Haider is being wooed by Arshia; the daughter of a police officer in Kashmir. Haider is also being tipped off by brothers both named Salman and they happen to work undercover for the Kashmir police in disguise of being video shop owners selling Salman Khan Movies exclusively. Enter Roohdar; who sends the message from Haider’s dad to revenge his death by killing Khurram. Khurram seems to have played games in order to strengthen his political position by manipulating the militant regime & Kashmir government. What happens next is a spectrum of angst, desperation, confusion, fear and terror which obviously results in a climactic bloodshed.

Undoubtedly, Haider happens to be the most Anti-India film that I have witnessed. It depicts the dark faces of citizens of Kashmir, its political leadership & most of all “The Indian army”. But that would not be any threat for it from attaining the cult-status in time; for it displays cinematic brilliance with the least resources possible.

Even after watching it twice, I still have questions unanswered regarding what forms the crux of the story. Like,

  1. Was his father Dr. Hilaal Meel a good doctor and a corrupt citizen? Was he forced by the circumstances into treating the militant or was he a militant himself?
  2. Why did Haider keep a gun in his childhood? Did he keep the ambitions of crossing the border in his school days itself?
  3. Why does his dad order to kill Khurram and leave Ghazala’s fate to allah when it is clear that Ghazala was reciprocating to Khurram’s lust for her?
  4. Is Roohdar a victim or a hunter? Roohdar’s origins are not clearly depicted. Did he become a militant out of will or was he really a Pakistani?
  5. Aarshi clearly knew that revealing Haider’s whereabouts and identity to her dad would bring chaos to everyone’s life. She still does so to her dad. Was she being stupid or was she playing the uncelebrated villain in the background?
  6. Does the Indian Army hold Guantanamo Bay style torture centers in the name of interrogation or is it still the most disciplined force as is explained by the Brigadier in the film?

I suppose that Vishaal Bharadwaaj has left these questions for the viewer to answer, for he wanted the true film-goer to visit “Haider” for a second time. Also, a movie which targets international film-festivals must keep its ambiguity in-tact in order to raise constructive discussions in open forums. Alas, the identity crisis that the film offers in its second watch raises its bar to the next level. After all – “to be or not to be” happens to be the very foundation on which the entire canvass of Hamlet is built.