Movie Review: Haider

Watching Vishal Bharadwaj’s Haider is like watching a classical concert on stage with ‘live’ musicians. There’s a Violin, Viola and Cello (all stringed instruments from the same family); all these instruments perform in perfect harmony. A flute renders its soulful melody whilst a piano pitches in perfectly to sync in harmony with the rest of the orchestra.

When the concert reaches its crescendo, there’s a WOW factor!

However, Bhardwaj goes ‘flat’ or rather off-key, in two crucial places just as the ‘piece’ was building up. First with an unnecessary song when Haider’s mother is getting married to her husband’s brother and then towards the end, when his mother is being fed the truth about her husband’s disappearance; there’s another song, “aare aona.” That’s what I would call “having chutzpah.”

A cool 10 minutes could have been shaved off. Methinks, even the ‘two Salmans’ were an unnecessary intrusion into the plot. Agreed, it raised a few laughs, but to what end? Knock them off and Bhardwaj would have timed his ‘piece’ perfectly.

Shahid Kapur (Haider), Tabu (Ghazala) who plays his mother and Kay Kay Menon (Khurram) are the stringed instruments. Shraddha Kapoor (Arshia) who plays Haider’s love interest renders her soulful harmony, whilst Irrfan Khan (Roohdar) tinkers with the Ebony and Ivory to bring in that perfect harmony.

Set in troubled Kashmir, Haider is an adaption of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It also completes Bharadwaj’s trilogy on Shakespeare after Maqbool and Omkara. More importantly, it brings the director back on track after his last disastrous outing—Matru Ki Bjili Ki Mandola.

Haider, who was sent off to study in Aligarh comes back after the army has picked up his father, a doctor,  and his house is burnt to ashes. His father’s only crime was that he was on the “side of life,” He was treating a dreaded militant in his house for an infected appendicitis. Branded as a traitor, he is taken away and like thousands of relatives, Haider joins in the search for his missing father.

He soon learns some disturbing news about his father’s arrest.

Shahid scorches the screen like never before. His character, like the others, is well fleshed out. Just that amount of aggression and no more; Just that amount of madness and no more; just that amount of reverence and no more. He walks the tightrope to give that perfect balanced act required of Haider.

After Kaminey, this has to be his best act to date. Take a bow, Shahid.

Tabu is in terrific form. As the distressed wife who takes succor from her brother-in-law and is always emotionally blackmailing her son, she is top notch. Kay Kay Menon, after long, gets a role worthy of his talent and he relishes every bit tearing it to pieces with his fiery performance.

Shraddha Kapoor too shines. What a powerfully-restrained performance. A perfect ally to Haider. Determined in love, shy and also ready for the kill! After Teen Patti, her debut flick, this has to be a ‘stunner’ for the very talented lady.

But this is a Shahid Kapur film all the way. What I liked best about his character was that he was not ‘over-the-top-violent’. To portray that must have been a herculean task.

Because, Haider had every reason to go Bang, Bang!

Rating: 4 / 5

Martin D’Souza

This first appeared on on October  01, 2014


Leave a Reply