Haider: A Complex subject handled with care….
Vishal Bharadwaj completes his trilogy with William Shakespear’s adaptation of “Hamlet”, earlier he made” Maqbool”, an adaptation of Macbeth and “Omkara”, an adaptation of Othello.
“Hamlet” was a difficult subject to adapt but Vishal Bharadwaj in association with Basharat Meer has adapted it beautifully. Vishal’s “Hamlet” or “Haider” is set in Kashmir, year 1995, and it tells the story of Haider’s (Shahid Kapoor) search for his missing father Dr Hilal Meer (Narendra Jha)who was captured by the army.
“Hamlet” had many layers to its premise and Vishal has tried to stick to the premise and interwoven those layers with élan. Each character right from Haider (Prince Hamlet) to the two Salmans (Courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) who play Haider’s childhood friends who spy on Haider to the Gravediggers has been etched well. Vishal has been true to the play and the writing is so strong that you feel the pain and ethos of Haider. Haider’s relationship with his mother Gazala (Queen Gertrude) has been portrayed with sensitivity and all the sequences between them are the highlight of the movie. It is Gazala’s character which is the best written character in the movie, it is mysterious and unpredictable till the end. It is the second half when the narration slips a bit and slows down the pace; even the climax seems a bit overstretched. It is the 162 mins run time which is a drawback; it could have been 15 mins shorter. Dialogues by Vishal Bharadwaj is witty and at the same time with a lot of depth.
Performances by the ensemble cast are the biggest highlight of the movie. Shahid Kapoor as Haider is one of his best performances till date and you can feel the pain and anguish. In some sequences he surpasses all expectations especially the sequence at Lal Chowk, it tapped his versatility as an actor, he proves that only he could have played Prince Hamlet which is the most complex character in English literature. Tabu as Haider’s mother Gazala is the best performance of the movie; she is brilliant and does justice to Vishal’s writing and vision of Queen Gertrude. Kay Kay Menon as Khurram (Claudius), Haider’s uncle proves again that he is an actor to watch out for; he is the most underutilized actor of Bollywood. Narendra Jha as Haider’s Father (King Hamlet) Hilal Meer is the surprise element of the movie. He does an excellent job considering the strong actors in the cast, still he shines. Lalit Parimoo another brilliant but underutilized actor plays Parvez Lone (Polonius), the army chief of Kashmir, and his portrayal of this conniving character who loves his daughter is another highlight performance of the movie. His portrayal is underplayed aptly and that is the beauty of his performance. Irfan Khan (The Ghost) as Roohdar the Pakistani militant is a cameo but his portrayal makes it a memorable character of the movie. Shradha Kapoor as Arshi (Ophelia) Haider’s love interest is good but her performance gets lost due to some brilliant performances by the rest of the cast. The two Salmans (Courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) Haider’s childhood friends played by Sumit Kaul & Rajat Bhagat give you the comic relief but are the weakest characters written in this movie. Kulbhushan Kharbanda in a cameo as Gazala’s father-in-law was a delight.
Shot entirely in Kashmir and it has been captured beautifully on celluloid by Pankaj Kumar. Dolly Ahluwalia again creates her impact through her costumes which were well researched and developed. Production Design by Subrata Chakraborthy & Amit Ray again was one of the best aspects of Haider. Music another forte of this movie by Vishal Bharadwaj in haunting, especially the Kashmiri folk inspired Bismil and the sensitive Jhelum sung by Vishal himself.
Vishal Bharadwaj again proves that he is a sensitive film maker and good with complex subjects. He succeeds in extracting some of the best performances of this year from his cast. The length and the overstretched climax make “Haider” a few notches short from being a classic.
This is definitely not an entertainer but if you want to watch a good sensitive movie (which is rare) go for it, I will go with 4 stars….a definite watch…
Movie Rating: (4 / 5)