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Movie REVIEW- HAIDER

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Release date: Oct 2

Cast: 

Shahid Kapoor,

Shraddha Kapoor,
Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, 
Narendra Jha

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Producer: Vishal Bhardwaj, Siddharth Roy Kapur

Written By: Vishal Bhardwaj, Basharat Peer 

Director of photography: Pankaj Kapur; 

Music by: Vishal Bhardwaj

Distributors: UTV Motion Pictures

(Photo Credit: UTV Motion Pictures, Video Credits: UTV Motion Pictures)

'Haider' is an adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. Yes, after a very successful box-office run of 'Maqbool' based on Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' in 2003 and 'Omkara' on "Othello' in 2006, Bhardwaj's love for Shakespearean work manifests itself through 'Haider' on 'Hamlet'. Notice that Bhardwaj likes to keep the first letter of the movie's name same as the original writing's title.

The movie is set in Kashmir. In an interview with The Indian Express, Bhardwaj acknowledges that the link to Kashmir was inspired from Basharat Peer's memoir, 'Curfewed Night'. The movie ended up being the story of Haider (prince Hamlet of 'Hamlet') set in the backdrop of Kashmir during the 1990s when the separatist movement was at its peak and human rights violations  said to be abundant. 

Incidently, Basharat himself, like Haider, was born in Seer, Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir, India. He attended school in the valley of Kashmir and continued his education in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh away from his strife-ridden birthplace.

A lot has been said about the movie since it's release. It has been surrounded by controversy and hailed as a masterpiece by different segments of movie-goers. While some say the movie is dark but a must-watch, others say it's portrayal of the Indian army is unfair and so it's a must-boycott (the call propagated through hashtag, #BoycottHaider). Here's what I have to say about the movie-

Three things the movie has going for it- 


#1. The Powerful Cast-

Tabu and Shahid Kapoor have given one of the most powerful performance of their lifetime. Tabu can convey any feeling with a precision and ease that has become her signature and is probably the reason why she is very much around, two decades after her first appearance in 'Vijaypath' in 1994. At 42, she plays mother to Shahid Kapoor who is 33 (their real life ages). While Tabu keeps the mysteries of her character alive till the very end, Shahid portrays the calm, the crazy and the confused aspects of his role well. 

The duo (Shahid and Tabu) have done complete justice to the passionate mother-son relationship as portrayed in Hamlet.- with depth and zeal that certainly leaves an impression on you. As Tabu mentioned in her interview with The Indian Express, "He (Bhardwaj) cast me as Shahid’s mother because he wanted the oddity of the relationship to come out which wouldn’t have come across with a regular aged mother and son combination. Haider shares a love/hate relationship with Ghazala but it’s a very passionate emotion. You almost feel odd that these two are mom and son."

Shraddha Kapoor, barely five movies old, conveys the picture of youth and freshness of a newcomer and yet skill and experience of a veteran. Got to hand it to the these youngsters these days- they are one talented bunch.


#2. The Beautiful Location & Costumes- Ah Kashmir!

The various locations of Kashmir, the people and their clothes leave you staring at the screen trying to not miss any details (or maybe that's just me). The homes shown in the movie are marvelous and the streets, the back-streets and the look and feel of the 'mohallas' (neighborhoods) are no less 'stare-worthy'.  In the 1980s, many songs were shot in Kashmir in Hindi movies, but in this one, the focus is the people and their lives rather than breath-taking ariel shots of the valley. Incidentally, Gulzar shot the song 'Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa Toh Nahi' from the movie Aandhi in Kashmir at the same location where the song Bismil from Haider was filmed.

Dolly Ahluwalia, the costume designer, couldn't have done a better job of showcasing Shraddha Kapoor's pristine beauty in pretty hijabs and jackets (especially the bright red one) and Shahid Kapoor's various state of minds reflected in his attire- coat, pathan suits and 'phirans'. The same is true for every other character in the movie. 

Even the traditional folk dance of the valley performed by men, Dumhal, is a good touch, with focus on the river Jhelum. There are beautiful folk-ish songs from the valley too.


#3. Soul-stirring, well-recited poems and the songs..


The song, Roshe Valle, has been composed by Vishal and sung by Tabu herself. Earlier in the year, while shooting for the film in Kashmir, Tabu sang it as a part of her act.The director decided to retain it in the film. 

Shraddha Kapoor has beautifully sung the Kashmiri folk part of the song titled "Do Jahaan". 

The poems have all been recited with the right enunciation by all- Narendra Jha, Tabu and Shahid Kapoor.

(Video Credit: Junglee Talkies, the record label of the movie)

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And What It Doesn't  ....

1.  The movie is set in the Kashmir insurgency setting, but it does not provide any information or education on the situation from a historical perspective, instead chooses to focus on the army atrocities without enlightening the viewers on the facts of the situation. There is some half heart-ed attempts at looping in the displacements faced by Kashmiri pundits and the challenges faced by the army in thwarting the separatist movements, but largely it appears that the goal is to provide a one-sided account. Considering that the Kashmir inspiration came from Bhasharat Peer's memoir, it is not surprising. Bhardwaj should have either stuck to doing an adaptation of Hamlet or produced the memoir of Peer. In the end, the movie is still simply about human tragedies. Bhardwaj could still have gotten away with accolades for the Kashmir setting had he not used the setting in a 'memoir' fashion.


2. Kay Kay Menon surprisingly did not deliver in this movie. He has impressed in many other roles and I'm a fan of his, but here I felt Irrfan Khan would have done more justice to the role. Irrfan  Khan's talent and caliber appear to be wasted here. Even Narendra Jha has been better used than the talent- house Irrfan Khan.


Overall-

I would rate the movie 'R'- it's not for kids.

If you're really a big fan of Tabu and Shahid Kapoor and want to see their subtle yet intense portrayal of the mother- son chemistry as depicted in Hamlet, go see it

If you have never been to Kashmir nor seen the 'gali- mohallas' (the streets and the neighborhood) and the clothing styles there, check out the movie.

If you're looking to be educated about the situation in Kashmir, skip it. 

If you detest watching movies that in any way arouses sympathy in the audience for those who take to terrorism as a result of what life deals out to them, stay away from this one.  For this is where Bhardwaj has gone wrong. He should have stayed clear of the one-sided perspective. Deleting a few scenes and a few dialogues could have easily achieved it, thereby avoiding the hint at sympathy- seeking. That's what memoirs bring to the equation. Make Hamlet or make 'Curfewed  Nights'.

(By Sonal Kulshrestha, a movie lover from Dallas, Texas)

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