So much has been written about this movie. Every critic has passed judgment on Vishal Bharadwaj and his gang. I am no critic. I don’t even write regularly. But after watching the movie, I felt this urge to voice my opinion. So, here goes…
“Jab tak hum inteqam sey azad nahi hongey, koi azadi humey azad nahi kar sakti” (If we do not free ourselves of revenge, no freedom can set us free). These words spoken by Kulbhushan Kharbanda in the first half of the movie and then later Tabu is the essence of Haider. Unfortunately, many of us have not been able to grasp the Weltanschauung of the movie.
We are making a hue and cry over Vishal Bharadwaj portraying the Indian Army in a negative light. Some are calling Bharadwaj an idiot for making a mockery trying an adaption of Hamlet. Others haven’t even watched the movie and are simply against it because it hurts the sentiments of “our” community.
After watching the movie, I realize – you will either LOVE it or HATE it…just like Hamlet. What is brilliant about the movie is that it has captured a sense of turmoil, conflict and urgency imminent in the play on which it is based. Kashmir is Denmark and Haider for all practical purposes is Hamlet. The movie beautifully encapsulates the external conflict of Kashmir and fuses it seamlessly with Haider’s internal turmoil. The director could not have used a better backdrop – the most serious and long lasting conflict India has witnessed in recent times. The Kashmir problem is the only one that could do justice to this Indian version of Hamlet. I keep bringing back Hamlet because the director has tried his best to stay true to the plot in every way.
I don’t just mean the basic plot which essentially is Uncle conspires to kill father, mothers has affair with uncle, lover betrays protagonist and then kills herself etc. Haider is Hamlet because of the subtext, which is so very close to this Shakespearean tragedy. One such brilliant example is a subtle hint of an Oedipus complex between the mother and son. Haider’s angst is heightened because he loves his mother not just as a mother but something/someone more. This is marvelously dramatized in the movie.
The ominous gravedigger’s scene in Act five is yet another example of how masterfully Bharadwaj has executed the scene. It resonates: –
In youth when I did love, did love,
Methought it was very sweet
To contract–o–the time, for–a–my behove,
Oh, methought, there–a–was nothing–a–meet.
In the movie
Arre Aon a ki zindagi hai thak gayi, so jao!
What we have to also remember that it is a political movie and in that context it cannot be totally unbiased. Basharat Peer (of The Curfewed Nights) is after all the scriptwriter; he will therefore show sympathy towards his community, especially the innocent people of that community who had to give up their lives because of this war. We should also not forget that where there is war, there will be atrocities. People who have power will commit these atrocities. Power during times of war lies with those who have guns – the army and terrorists. That is exactly what the movie has shown. The ground reality is that the Indian army has won this war against terrorism by counter insurgency and by planting moles and creating dummy groups to fight the terrorists just like they do in the movie – operation Bulbul. The army commander fires the grenade only after the terrorists murder his jawans. The grenade does get rid of a terrorist who was sure to kill more innocent people. The army is NOT ALL BAD.
The Indian army is no different from any other. Mistakes have been committed but when there is a war innocent lives are lost – that is also a fact. One should accept the fact the majority of people in Kashmir wanted “Freedom” and they thought that it would come from across the border (sarhad-paar) but the bottomline is it never does come. The dream is shattered.
While the movie does show people of Kashmir holding banners for their loved ones who have “disappeared” for which the Indian Army is mainly responsible, here is also a board in one of the scenes in the background (again very subtly depicted) it reads “once you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow”. That is what the army has done and has been very successful in controlling terrorism.
Let us not forget, it is the people of his own community who first put a gun in young Haider’s hand. It is his own people who betray him – his mother and uncle, his friends (Salman and Salman – absolutely beautiful characterization in the Indian context where Bollywood is an integral part) and most importantly the people of his own community who put a gun in his hands (Roohdaar – his father’s ghost) – again!
The culmination is of course the “play within a play” brilliantly done in true Bollywood style with song and dance. The dance in the Bismil song (reminding one of Karz:- ek haseena thi, ek deewana tha”) is very well executed by Shahid and well choreographed by Sudesh Adhana in his typical style with puppets and all. Again, underscoring the worldview: Are we not all puppets?
But what lingers on our minds as we walk out of the movie theater is Ghazala’s fragmented body parts symbolizing her life. Her husband, a good man, does not have time for her. His brother, a reprehensible person but loves her. A son who loves his mother but loves his father more and cannot let go of him. She is Queen Gertrude of Hamlet but she is also Kashmir – broken, shattered and dead. War is futile. The lesson for the so-called freedom fighters – Revenge does not get you freedom – only death!