Sunday, 5 October 2014

Being Haider

To see or not to see was never a question. 

I had been waiting for Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider to be released for a long time and voila, the movie did not disappoint me. 

By my troth, Mr Bhardwaj has done full justice to the legendary bard’s most tragic play, Hamlet. Alas, the tale of our Haider, a Kashmiri youth, is far more tragic than the Prince of Denmark. A mere thought that this could also be an ordinary Kashmiri's real life story sends shivers down one’s spine.

Take this for a climax!
To shoot or not to shoot Khurram’s (Kay Kay Menon) limbless body slithering on the Kashmiri snow must have been a question in Haider’s (Shahid Kapur) mind. Will he vacillate yet again? Or will he finally avenge his father’s murder? 

The ultimate tragedy of Haider is that he has by now lost everything, from his father, mother, beloved, to his home, which had been blown up by the army for sheltering militants. In the end you feel like hugging the Kashmiri brother and cry your heart out with him. How could people endure so much pain and sufferings?
Nonetheless, one of the problems that we face in the course of reading Hamlet is whether his madness is feigned or real. Opinions are divided on this. But, there is no such issue with Haider, for he has not put an antic disposition on like the former.

Haider almost goes mad like a bedlam beggar after he finds his father’s corpse entombed in a graveyard. He is fortunate, for thousands of Kashmiris, still awaiting their disappeared loved ones, have not had this luxury. 
So, in a fit of madness, bald as a coot, dressed in rags, a mic in his
hand, unrecognizable Haider addresses a public gathering in the middle
of Lal Chowk, Sri Nagar.

Whilst making weird faces, in fluent English, he recites the following
section of Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA),
“According to the AFSPA, in an area that is proclaimed as ‘disturbed’, an officer of the armed forces has powers to arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offenses or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.” This is Shahid's best performance to date.

But how does Haider find his father’s grave? How does he come to know who killed his father?
I am glad that there is no use of supernatural in Haider like the
ghost of Hamlet’s father who would reveal to him the cause of his
death and his mother’s infidelity. It would have looked really grotesque
for Haider’s father’s ghost hovering above the former’s head and
spilling the beans. Wouldn’t it? In this context, Irrfan Khan’s role as Roohdar is crucial.

Moreover, within days of Haider’s father’s death, Ghazala (Tabu) and Khurram get married, rubbing salt into his wound. He condemns her for showing such haste in marrying his uncle and accuses her of being
involved in the former's murder.If she were Gertrude, she would say, 

O Haider, speak no more;
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct.

Like Hamlet’s Ophelia, Haider’s love interest Arshia (Shraddha Kapur),
does not have much to do in the movie. But, she really looks and above all,
sounds like a typical Kashmiri girl, when she says to Haider,

I lov-ed you more than my life,’ evoking peals of laughter from the audience.

Shakespeare often introduced comic elements in his tragic plays. In
King Lear, for instance, we have the Fool. In Macbeth, we have a comic
element in the person of the Porter. In Othello, we do not have any
comic elements as such, but we do have some light-hearted conversation
between Desdemona and Emilia.

And like Halmet, Haider also is endowed with its comic elements, the fools – two Salman Khan lookalike brothers and the grave diggers. The introduction of comic elements in this tragedy serves many purposes. In the first place, it shows the diversity of life which is not just a matter of sorrows, sufferings, and tears but which also has its funny side.

But, I feel the grave-diggers’ scene could have b
een better and wittier, providing much fun and humour although this scene is laid in a graveyard and even though the fun and humour for that reason acquire a somewhat somber quality here.

In the end, Haider’s story will leave one numb, shocked, hurt, and searching for answers. One might as well shed a tear for our Kashmiri tragic hero Haider, who has gone through so much in his life. I definitely did. But, there will also be those who would not turn a hair and would be indifferent to his agony and endless sufferings. They would blame Haider for simply being Haider, a child of conflict.

In Shakespeare’s words, 

‘What’s Haider to I, and I to Haider,
That I should weep for him?’

To be human or not to be, ought not to be a question.

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