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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Haider: A second opinion

I shared popcorn with a friend during the second half. I finished it very quickly so I didn't have to hear myself chewing.

Spoiler alert!

Cold and brutally unforgiving, Haider was a very welcome interpretation of Shakespeare's powerful tragedy, Hamlet. The third of his Shakespeare influenced epics; Vishal Bharadwaj once again plunges into deep character play and wonderful storytelling, although the editing and continuity of the movie were surprisingly wanting. Let's break it down, shall we?

The movie was, of course, set in a beautiful scenic place blanketed by crispy white snow and yet, the air was choked with blood and pain. There were a couple of interesting Birdseye shots, rolling over lush green hills and sparkling waters. I really liked the house. Not many houses can seem so charming after they've been blown up. Every scene had a very befitting landscape to support it. 


Here's why I really loved it. I read condensed version of Hamlet a week or two before the movie, and the thing about Shakespeare is that he makes everything VERY dramatic. Every dialogue is heavy with emotion, every scene ripe with melodrama. Normally, Bollywood would be all over that shit. Heck, if Karan Johar remade a Shakespeare classic, it would be a 6 hour boo-hoo fest. But not this time. VB trimmed the fat. He made the adaptation SO brutally straightforward, so relentlessly brash and tight, that I felt a hot slap to my face. The story is different. The people who I thought would die, did not. The people I hoped would die, did. 

"Feel my rapier scoundrel! Wait, actually, this big rock will do"

The first half was slow, yes, but the second was at cutthroat pace in comparison and we were teetering off the edge of our seats in no time. Based on the length of the film I have a feeling it was meant to be a sort of commentary on Haider’s life after the tragedy. The first half did its best to elucidate Haider’s search for his father and the several places that it carried him to, but there was too much other stuff going on. In this respect, the story wasn’t all too strong, especially since he comes straight home to get his mother to eat.
Another welcome interpretation of the story was Irfan Khan’s character. While the original Hamlet involved the ghost of his late father whispering vengeance into his ear, VB made a supercool cellmate for Haider’s father who becomes the film’s game changer. The only hint of the supernatural is in a short and beautifully rendered dream sequence which was more than sufficient.

 Shakespeare: 0

Bismil was amazing. I’m not a fan of mid-movie Bollywood numbers but this song really tied things together. Very interesting camera angles and the slowly changing expressions on the actors faces were perfect. Kudos to Kaykay Menon in the ending of this scene.

And of course I was pleasantly surprised that “To be or not to be” was successfully converted into a kickass Hindi monologue. Although the “Salman, to go or not to go” line almost made me throw my shoe at the screen. I had a hard time keeping up with the beautifully scripted Hindi, but I definitely noted some very hard hitting dialogues. And of course I was very happy with the graveyard scene. But Shraddha Kapoor's English was NOT funny. It was much better to see Tabu teaching it at her school rather than a really bad post-love-scene monologue. 

"I louu you 4eva"

Hamlet does have some smart political commentary which was missing in Haider, but perhaps I was too distracted by all the blood.

And the ending, oh god, the ending. I was on my feet before the movie was over. So the uncle was supposed to die. NO. Haider decided to go Arya Stark on his ass and leave him bleeding. I applaud VB for this unforgiving tactic that really sealed the deal for me, although I really wish the movie had culminated in an epic dialogue. The movie was full of them! Instead he chose to settle with a cheap and weak fade to black. Speaking of which…

EDITING. Awful. The primary reason why this movie was slow was because there was NO continuity. Scenes started and ended with dialogues that were awkwardly out of place and everything was fading to black! Shoddy work I must say. There was also this tiny shot of the house as it took the first bomb where a really bad CGI corpse was dangling from the roof for just a second. My guess is that it was cut short and retained because it was probably expensive. Either way, it was rather off-putting. The movie deserved much better.


Shahid Kapoor wins. His eyes will haunt my dreams for the weeks to come. He’s done an incredible job and his facial hair-madness-face was vital to the character. I would’ve preferred a slow descent into madness rather than an abrupt visit to the barber but the movie was long enough as it is. I especially liked how he continued to polish his dead father’s shoes in the ruins of his home. Very classy.  His dialogues were full of venom and icy hatred. He delivered his lines with perfection and really struck a chord with his brilliant acting.

"How I felt after R...Rajkumar"

Tabu was as elegant and beautiful as always. Her relationship with Haider (creepy) was a looming thought through the length of the movie. She played the perfect doting, motherly infidel and was exceptionally convincing during the Bismil sequence. Although at the end, her suicide, while seemingly abrupt, was sort of welcome. It almost felt like it was just meant to happen. On a side note, the explosion wasn’t nearly as big as it should’ve been.

Kaykay Menon did a great job in making people hate him while still putting in his best sympathy face. I must admit I expected much more from him during the prayer scene when he’s supposed to be repenting for his sins. But his reaction to Bismil was all I needed. The movie may have ended rather badly for him but his final cry of anguish was echoing in my ears for a while. He really went out on a limb. Or two. <pat self on back>

Shraddha Kapoor has a really sexy back. Yeah that’s about it.

The Salman’s, ugh. But there was very little of them so it didn’t entirely throw me off. They actually turned out to be very interesting characters, and to be fair, they died in a very brutal way. I’m sold.

Haider’s dad was pretty good. The man had an air of righteousness about him, and he made a very convincing jailbird poet. There was something about his quest for vengeance that was so noble and true that it almost made his thirst for blood seem permissible.  

Irfan Khan’s cameo was very cool, and as I said before, much more welcome than some ethereal ghost of Haider’s father. Not like he had much to do, but his pronounced limp really added to the charm. Also, what a cool name! “Roohdaar”

I really couldn’t care less about Shraddha Kapoor’s brother. I just waited for him to die. It was like he was never there to begin with.

Small shout out to the supercool graveyard guys and the way they recite that poem before planting a slug in that guy’s head. Damn it VB, you really get me.

So the characters were all great, but I felt they could’ve really used a little more depth. Haider was fine and all but the story would’ve really benefited from a little more on Tabu’s fight with her own guilt and Kaykay Menon’s need for redemption.
All in all, it was a very uplifting movie with beautiful dialogue, exceptional acting and a very good perspective on Shakespearean drama. Welcome back VB; I shall be downloading Kaminey very soon.

4.5/5 for being so awesome  


  1. Never noticed that the editing was that bad until you pointed it out. Great movie :)
    There are some chef d'oeuvre scenes where Haider talks about Chutzpah. I especially loved the scene where he is first shown bald and he brings to the fore the concept of "freedom" that the people in Kashmir were yearning for, and then goes on to sing "Saare jahaan we achcha" with a touch of madness. I felt there was a lot of political commentary on the heaven-hell of Kashmir. Great job on the review RS :)

  2. Thanks :D Oh yeah i forgot to mention the 'chutzpah' scene, and his little street gag :)