बहुत दुखा रे… (Bohot dukha re)

There are few songs that grab you instantly by intensity of the music, lyrics or by sheer brilliance of the voice that conveys emotions so effortlessly.

बहुत दुखा रे, बहुत दुखा मन from Mukkabaaz is probably one song where all these three are interwoven so beautifully that it is almost impossible to choose one as the winner.

Anurag Kashyap needs no recommendation – he is one of the most interesting film-makers in Hindi film industry and I rate him highly in spotting new talent – not only in actors, but also among story-writers, directors, musicians, singers, lyricists and so on. This song बहुत दुखा रे, बहुत दुखा मन has few interesting stories about it as well.

Mukkabaz – The Film

I have been impressed with this films ever since I saw it – especially Vineet Kumar Singh is super impressive – given that he has not only acted exceptionally well in the lead role, but he is also the writer of the story of sportsman’s struggle. Vineet Kumar is an Ayurvedic doctor by qualification, pursuing his dream to be an actor and a film-maker. Anyway, this post is more about the song, not so much about the film – but it is definitely one of the most interesting films of 2018.

The other songs of this film are also powerful and have varied range – from folk to rap, but I’ll skip them in this post. 🙂

The Lyricist – Hussain Haidr​y

Hussain Haidr​y got fame with his viral poem – Hindustani Musalman at Kommune, a performing arts forum in Mumbai. He is a chartered accountant and an MBA for IIM, Indore, who left his corporate job in Kolkata and came to Mumbai to pursue his passion to be a writer and poet. He is already famous in literary fests and has written 7 songs in Mukkabaaz. I’d be following this new lyricist curiously to see his journey in the films, he seems to retain that poetry element even in the film songs.

It is that simplicity, intensity and flow of Haidr​y’s words that take this song to a new level – set in the rustic UP tone and dialect, these words literary make you feel the agony of separation.  You can almost feel those tears while listening to बहुत दुखा रे, बहुत दुखा मन
हाथ तोरा जब छूटा… And my heart almost skipped a beat while listening to those last lines in the baritone voice of Dev Arijit for the first time – मोरे हाँथ में तोरी हाँथ की छुवन पड़ी थी बिखरी… Of course, music and singing bring those words alive.

Musician & Singer – Rachita Arora

I believe Rachita Arora is the magic in this mellow, melodious song – she is the composer as well as the singer along with Dev Arijit (male voice). Rachita is trained in Hindustani classical music and she has done few other films including Newton in the last couple of years. However, this indeed seems to be her big break and her work here is versatile and distinctive. She was introduced to Anurag Kashyap by Makarad Deshpande and in this conversation she fondly recalls her year-long journey with this films while composing its songs.

This classical based song starts with simple but mesmerizing tune and with powerful musical interludes. The way singers softly sing बहुत दुखा रे, बहुत दुखा मन  makes your heart melt. And both the singers capture emotions accurately – while the female voice conveys more of pain and sadness, the male voice exudes intense pain as well as anger – and that anger becomes more prominent towards the end of the song.

Rachita’s voice is unbelievably sweet and soothing, feels almost like a fresh breeze on a summer afternoon. The only other equally mellifluous voices that I can think of among contemporary singers would be Shreya Ghoshal or Monali Thakur – it would be exciting to see what kind of songs she gets in the future. In facts, being a talented musician herself, it would be more interesting to see what kind of songs she picks up for herself in her own projects as a composer. Again, she is another new talent that I’d love to listen to over the next few years.

I couldn’t find much information about Dev Arijit and IMDB shows only Mukkabaaz for his name, though I could fund this Durbin song by him on YouTube. He has picked up tone and emotions quite well in this song as well.

The connect…

Somehow, I am always fascinated  by this image of ‘हाथो में हाथ‘, loved it in Swanand Kirkire’s  Baawara Mann (बावरा मन) as ‘इस सयानी भीड़ में बस हाथोमें तेरा हाथ हो’ or his lines ‘आज हाथ थाम लो इक हाथ की कमी खली’ from the title track of Khoya Khoya Chaand, also loved this image in Gulzar’s words  हाथ छूटें भी तो रिश्ते नहीं छोड़ा करते and I love it in this Haidr​y’s song as well.

Beyond the obvious romantic expression, I think ‘हाथो में हाथ‘ is also about the human connect, bonding and relations. ‘हाथो में हाथ‘ is knowing that you have someone with you, someone you can count on – a friend or a companion. This song voices the pain of separation, of losing that holding hand of the beloved. I have lost quite a few good friends in the last few years due to various reasons, I still feel that pain, I still miss that holding hand and connection that I shared with them. Anyone who has experienced separation of the beloved even temporarily can relate to this song, Haidry’s words and Rachita’s tune as well as singing bring it alive.

There are some moments in this song when there are hardly any instruments playing in the background and the singers hum those words gently, almost like whispers – I get goose bumps every time I listen to those lines in this song.

These days I mostly believe that I am not as sensitive and sentimental as I used to be, but then there are times when I am proved wrong, and this is that one song….

बहुत दुखा रे, बहुत दुखा मन
सांझ का घोर अंधेरा मोहे
रात की याद दिलावे
रात जो सिर पर आवे लागे
लाग बरस कट जावे
आस का दर्पण कजलाया रे
लागी मोहे झूठा
बहुत दुखा रे
बहुत दुखा मन
हाथ तोरा जब छूटा

सांझ का घोर अंधेरा मोहे
रात की याद दिलावे
सांझ का घोर अंधेरा मोहे
रात की याद दिलावे

चिट्ठी जैना ऊ देस
जो देस गए मोरे सजना,
हवा के पर में बांध के भेजे
हम संदेस का गहना,
बिरहा ने पतझड़ बनके
पत्ता पत्ता लूटा,
बहुत दुखा रे
बहुत दुखा मन
हाथ तोरा जब छूटा

सांझ का घोर अंधेरा मोहे
रात की याद दिलावे
सांझ का घोर अंधेरा मोहे
रात की याद दिलावे

धूप पड़े जो बदन पे मोरे
अग्न सी ताप लगावे,
छाँह में थम के पानी पियें तो
पानी में ज़ेहर मिलावे,
धूप पड़े जो बदन पे मोरे
अग्न सी ताप लगावे,
छाँह में थम के पानी पियें तो
पानी में ज़ेहर मिलावे,

तन की पीर तो मिट गई
मोरे मन का बैर ना टूटा,
बहुत दुखा रे
बहुत दुखा मन
हाथ तोरा जब छूटा

मोरे हाँथ में तोरी हाँथ की
छुवन पड़ी थी बिखरी
बहुत दुखा रे
बहुत दुखा मन
हाथ तोरा जब छूटा

बहुत दुखा रे
बहुत दुखा मन
हाथ तोरा जब छूटा

– Written by Hussain Haidr​y, Composed by Rachita Arora, and sung by Rachita Arora & Dev Arijit

You can watch it here –


Haider 3: Epilogue

Haider: Epilogue

The previous part of this series covers the actual movie review >> Haider 2: The Movie

As I discuss about various controversies & criticism that Haider has received, I can’t think of anything more appropriate than this tweet-pic that my namesake @rmanish1 has posted –

I will go through some common objections & issues about Haider first, followed by my personal opinions and conclusion about this series of articles based on Haider.

  • Haider portrays Indian army negatively – Quite a few points here. To start with, though I agree that Indian army has been doing a wonderful job on various fronts including their help in recent floods in Kashmir (Haider acknowledges this in the end);  there are also many cases of atrocities by armed forces in various areas. AFSPA has been misused in many ways in many states. You might be aware of Sharmila Irom‘s prolonged ‘Hunger Strike’ and relentless fight to repeal of the AFSPA.  Please read the whole case of Sharmila Irom to get the real picture. The army officer’s article that I quoted here earlier itself mentions this –

    On AFSPA, even if we concede that the law was needed at the peak of militancy in Kashmir in the 1990s, there is no reason for it to still be applied to urban areas of Kashmir at the current levels of violence. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has cogently made the case but to little avail. Let’s hope the new, unfearing government at the Centre will have the courage to take that bold step and send a message to Kashmir which its predecessor governments failed to do.

    We have seen lot of atrocities by corrupt police officers in Bollywood films for ages, and though I agree that defence forces are far more respectable and less corrupt; let’s be honest and accept that bad people exist everywhere, and defence is no exception. Power abuse is not so uncommon by people who hold certain authority and AFSPA indeed gives unlimited power to armed forces.

    More importantly, Haider doesn’t really show Indian army in the bad light as such. They are mostly shown as professionals with strategies that their think-tank thought effective at that time. The bad cops are from JK police (Aarshi’s father) and then there are Ikhwaan, Ikhwaan-ul-Muslimoon  –  the army’s creation of counterinsurgent group. Again, read this from the same army officer’s article

    Everything the movie says about Ikhwaan is perhaps true. The group was supported by the Indian Army and operated alongside it. It countered terror with terror of its own against Pakistan-backed terrorists and their over ground supporters. Ikhwaanis illegally felled timber and sold it (Koka Parray acknowledged that in an interview to Harinder Baweja of India Today in 1995), extorted money from shopkeepers, street vendors and even bus-passengers at checkpoints it established. It also probably did things much worse than that. After all, these Ikhwaanis had been trained in Pakistan, had operated as terrorists and knew how to fleece the Kashmiris for personal benefits.

    I sincerely request you to read this complete article carefully. Here is someone who has served Indian Army from 1994 to 1997 and he says this is how he concludes his article –

    Haider is a movie we should welcome whole-heartedly. More than the quality and the message of the movie, the fact that such a political movie can be made and released in this country is something we should be justifiably proud of. Let a thousand more Haiders bloom.

  • Kashmir’s Representation/Depiction – Ahhhh! That’s really a tough one….This cinema shows Kashmir that we have not seen so far in Bollywood movies. And if our perception of Kashmir is based on past films like Kashmir Ki Kali to Mission Kashmir and likes (‘I am’  by Onir  is a respectable exception – it has one really nice story set in Kashmir acted by Juhi Chawla & Manisha Koirala), then it is already skewed and far from reality. But does that mean that Haider represents the complete truth  (if one such thing exists!) about Kashmir’s situation during that period around 1995-96?   The answer is obviously a resounding NO – absolutely not!  This is just one reality based story & perception as narrated by VB and Basharat Peer adapted from Curfewed Night and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And as mentioned before,  the story deviates from political scene in Kashmir and becomes more of Haider’s personal story of betrayal and revenge.It would be extremely naive or misleading to assume that  this movie tells you the ‘complete truth’ about Kashmir.  It is simply *not* possible. But we need to have many such real stories from Kashmir. They all might be different and present their own perspectives based on what they have experienced in their ambit of experience there. To see even the tip of the iceberg of the real issues and truths of Kashmir, we’d need lot more films (there are quite a few books available though) showing different truths and perspectives. Let there be films about Kashmiri Pandits and their sufferings, let their be films about Muslims and their suffering and let there be films about defence/army people and all the difficulties they are facing there. The more perspectives we have, better chance we have of getting closer to the real issues and truth.We have several films based on partition that we had in 1947,  right from M. S. Sathyu’s ‘Garm Hawa’, Pamela Rooks’ ‘Train to Pakistan’ (based on Khushwant Singhs novel by the same name)  to Chandra Prakash Dwivedi’s ‘Pinjar’ (based on Amrita Pritam’s novel by same name) and many others (let’s spare Gadar, not worth considering here) and each had dealt with different aspects of partition. It is a deep wound that we all share and many authors and film-makers share their views on this through their writings or film makings. In case of Haider, this is the view  shared by VB & Basharat Peer, it is not complete – but that’s the story they have chosen to narrate in Haider and it is based on real incidents as well. Let’s give them freedom to do that. One may criticize their  film and all its flaws, but it shouldn’t be boycotted only because some jingoistic people believe that it shows army in negative light and depicts Kashmir in a way that they don’t like. That’s ridiculous! For once I am happy with Indian censor and political parties for allowing it to be released despite 41 cuts. It still makes a strong political statement and demonstrate at least a slice of real Kashmir life in those difficult times.
  • What Haider lost in 41 cuts – I found this article by chance and it is a detailed description of what all was eliminated before Haider was passed by the censor board. I am not too disappointed to see some extremely disturbing torture scenes getting cut, and many of them are voluntarily deleted. I am glad that censor board has taken care to protect the soul of the film. This is quite a heartening news for me and this is the level of freedom of expression we’d like to see in our India.
  • VB films are not really ‘great’This one is quite funny. I have heard really strange arguments about it. This article on Mint by Sandipan Deb says:

    Bhardwaj can make us think but he can’t make us feel. We are dazzled by his imagination as he transposes Hamlet on Kashmir and makes Shakespeare’s drama totally indigenous; we are impressed by his mastery over his craft—from cinematography to editing to his attention to every detail in recreating the milieu to the tight control he maintains over the pace of his film. But at the end, we empathize with none of the characters, even as they brood, weep, grieve, scream, lose their sanity.

    I beg to differ. I can definitely connect to Haider, and did empathize with his pain, suffering and anger as well. Ditto for Kareena Kapoor in Omkara.

    Then there are those who compare VB with Anurag Kashyap (AK) or others (Dibakar Banerjee) and say that he is not as great as they are. I find this comparison quite irrelevant. Especially talking about AK & VB – they are essentially different. They come from different backgrounds, different life experiences and have different styles. They have different personalities (read their bio) and their work reflect who they are. It is their expression after all.

    They are both distinctive and have their own unique style and have given some memorable milestones in the Indian film industry. AK films are radical and hard-hitting. VB is contemplative, sensitive and creative/innovative with richer gamut of human emotions and relationships. We already have so many copycats in Bollywood – these two guys are unique and do their own thing quite well. Do we really need to put them in some silly rating against each other? Let’s cherish each one of them as a member of rare breed of sensible film-makers in Bollywood.

    Anyway! I admire Vishal Bharadwaj (and AK as well) and I liked many of his films (not all), but I have no claim that he is the best film-maker and nor do I have any inclination to convert others to VB fan club.

Back to my personal opinions about Haider. I won’t comment if it is a great movie or not, but I insist that it is an important movie among current films. It’s the beginning of taking a firm political stand in the film, and not necessarily adhering to political correctness. It is a courageous film with lot of complex characters and far more convoluted plot painted on a huge canvas with controversial backdrop. It’s a gutsy film in terms of contents,  inter-personal relations and unconventional, disturbing end. I really appreciate VB for conceiving it, perusing Basharat Peer to come up with a story that blends his book and Hamlet and finally for directing and producing this.

I am not a professional film critic, but I have always been passionate about cinema and this is the largest post I have ever posted on my blog about any film. I watched Haider 3 days ago and it did disturb me immensely to impel me to find out more about Haider, people’s views – both supporting it or opposing it on their blogs, twitter and so on. Moreover, it got me deep into Hamlet characters, plot and most importantly first hand accounts/stories of Kashmiri authors writing about Kashmir. I am trying to procure Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer and The Garden of Solitude by Siddhartha Gigoo who might provide a different perspective as his book talks about a Kashmiri Pandit family driven away from the Valley in the wake of armed insurgency and political turmoil. I want to explore more about it from first hand information, which may not necessarily corroborate with the information our national media has been feeding us for years.

I am thankful to Haider for making me disturbed in a good way and impelling me to figure out more. I don’t really need any other excuse to watch it again in the cinema hall and it will remain one of the important films in my collection when it becomes available on DVD.

References & Further Reading –

I have already given lot of links in the series of articles on Haider here, but would like to list few sources that I found in the last few days and have been very useful in shaping up this series.

  1. Basharat Peer’s interview –  Read more about the author of Curfewed Night and contributor to writing & screenplay for this movie. It helps to see where is he coming from. You can read his complete interview here:  http://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/books/the-dawn-after-curfew/article1-1192577.aspx
  2.  One Haider is not enough – The author (name not disclosed, but it is available with many reputed magazines) is a retired army officer and served in the Kashmir Valley from 1994 to 1997. He has written about Haider and all those little known details about Kashmir & Army operations. It is his credibility and honesty about the practices/strategies used by the army in Kashmir that really helped to get some better insights about Kashmir. You must read this article before you even think of forming an opinion about Haider. I am getting a print copy of this article for future reference. You can read this article here: http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/one-haider-is-not-enough-114100500087_1.html
  3. Introducing Kashmir: On Haider, Vishal Bharadwaj’s Riff on Hamlet – I did not use this article for reference here, but found it to be extremely well written by Manash Bhattacharjee. He is a poet, writer, and political science scholar based in New Delhi. His knowledge, class is quite evident from this article here:  http://brightlightsfilm.com/introducing-kashmir-haider-vishal-bharadwajs-riff-hamlet#.VDXk7CU32no
  4. A Kashmiri speaks: Why Haider is a must-see film for every Indian –  A Kasmiri, Sameer Yasir claims to have an insider’s view and explains why it is must see for every Indian. Read it here – http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/a-kashmiri-speaks-why-haider-is-a-must-see-film-for-every-indian-1741527.html
  5. Haider is not the only story of Kashmir – Sunanda Vashisht’s article explaining all that she didn’t like about Haider and how VB and Basharat Peer made it a mess. I have already addressed some of her objects earlier epilogue. Though, I agree with the title,  and I think it is implicitly understood by most of us that Haider in not the only story of Kashmir. Well, Haider is a story of Haider, Kashmir happens to be the place where the story is set.  Nevertheless, we should have many more stories from different authors with different perspectives from Kashmir. Though I don’t agree with her views, this article helps in articulating most of the objections about Haider in one place – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-haider-is-not-the-only-story-of-kashmir-2024038
  6. F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b – This is my favourite blog for movie reviews. They have plenty of posts on Haider and these are particularly helpful – Haider On Haider by Netherlands based filmmaker who was born in Delhi to a German mother and a Kashmiri father. The other one is Haider: Uncertain, Complex, Asymmetric… Because the screenplay is Kashmir by Nadi Palshikar who happens to be an MBBS doctor and FTTI educated film enthusiast. There is also a nice post about ‘Haider: Outsourced Art’, that shows collection of several people’s expressions about Haider through their own creations.

Books – As mentioned before, these two books look quite interesting if you want to know more.

Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer
Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer
The garden Of Solitude By Siddharatha Gigoo
The garden Of Solitude By Siddharatha Gigoo



Haider 2: The Movie

Haider 2: The Movie

Spoiler Alert:  The article discusses actual movie plot, the film and all its nuances . It is a pretty long post and I hope that you’d find it interesting enough to read till the end.  The previous part of this series covers the background of Haider in case you’re interested >> Haider 1: The Background

So after all that background, let’s talk about the movie itself – Haider. It doesn’t really matter if you know Hamlet or not, though it would enhance the experience if you know. First things first – Haider is a fictional story based on Hamlet and it is set in Kashmir. The film is essentially about the central character Haider, as an adaptation of Hamlet, and Kashmir has been used only as a backdrop. The screenplay is by journalist Basharat Peer and Vishal Bharadwaj himself. It contains around 10 events from Basharat Peer‘s book titled Curfewed Night. Basharat is an Indian journalist of Kashmiri ethnicity, based in New York (More about him at the end of the article). His first hand knowledge and perspective about real Kashmir is evident in Haider. This films shows Kashmir like we have never seen before in a Bollywood movie. Another ace VB has here is cinematographer Pankaj Kumar (‘Ship of Theseus‘ fame) – he is a magician. He not only makes those frames look unbelievably beautiful, but he also captures soul of the cinema wonderfully through his cinematography, so you can always sense that gloom and fear even in those beautiful locations that he captures.  The pace of movie is slow and it unfolds carefully & diligently and I wouldn’t miss a single frame here as it has so many connotations.



The film starts in 1995 in Srinagar, India (Yeah, it says India) and stays true to its time. It is a story of Haider (Shahid Kapoor), who has been sent to study in Aligarh since his mother Ghazala (Tabu) fears that he might get involved in dangerous activities given the dubious state of affairs in Kashmir. Haider’s father Dr. Hilal Meer (Narendra Jha) is a humanitarian doctor who doesn’t hesitate to help a militant with his medical problems, and decides to treat a militant at his home since it is dangerous to take him to the hospital. Someone informs the army officers and they take Dr. Hilal Meer away for harboring militants and he somehow ‘disappears‘ after that. Worse still, their house is reduced to debris by a military officer to kill the militants there. Haider returns home to Kashmir on receiving news of his father’s disappearance, on his way he is interrogated & detained at the military check-post- and then he is helped by his journalist girlfriend Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor), who assures the military officer (‘Masala Dosa’ in her words, depicted as a south Indian who insists that Anantnag is not Islamabad, the only Islamabad that exists is on the other side of the border) that Haider is a student, poet and not a suspect for them. Haider is shaken to see ruins of his house and then he gets shattered as he watches his mother laughing & singing with his uncle, Khurram Meer (K K Menon). Moreover, this is just after few days of his father’s disappearance and their relationship is now evident.

Ghazala is now a half-widow in Kashmir since her husband has disappeared and there are several such stories where people taken away by the army just ‘disappear’ somehow.  There is one disturbing scene when an old man is requesting the lawyer Khurram to rescue his son who has been detained by the army, and Khurram tells him that only way to save his son is to actually get him accused in some false crime so that there is no chance of ‘disappearing‘. Khurram contests an election and wins it to become an influential person in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Haider is searching for his missing father without much luck. Arshia’s brother Liyaqat (Aamir Bashir) and her police officer father (Lalit Parimoo) warn her against meeting Haider, but she continues to meet him nevertheless. A suspicious stranger Roohdaar (Irrfan Khan) informs them that Haider’s father is dead and his own uncle Khurram is responsible for his father’s gruesome murder. Haider also learns that his uncle Khurram was the military informer and he was in turn informed by his own mother about the militant being treated in their house. Roohdaar conveys last message from Haider’s father to avenge his death by killing his uncle Khurram, who betrayed his own brother and having an affair with his mother.  Haider is devastated to learn about his father’s death, and there is yet another story that Khurram narrates him. According to Khurram, Roohdaar is an ISI agent who actually killed his father since he learnt his secrets during their time together as inmates in the army detention camp.

Haider is utterly confused and not sure whose version of his father’s death is true. What follows later is Haider’s journey on the verge of insanity, his pent-up anger and deep sadness. And of course his dilemma – “To be or not to be!” Haider (as well as Hamlet in the original play) is indecisive, he is contemplative & uncertain and often slow to take action when there is an opportunity (as it happens when Khurram is confessing his crime during his Namaaz/prayer). Yet, when he acts, it is usually rash and violent as it happens when he shoots Arshia’s father who shows up with a gun while Haider is confronting his mother in the ruins of their house (similar to famous curtain scene is Hamlet, when he kills Polonious). VB has adapted both these scenes quite well in the local context. And Haider’s psychologically complex character is challenging to develop and act, but VB and Shahid Kapoor both have managed to pull it off quite well.

This part of the movie explores really intricate layers of emotions between Haider and his mother Ghazala, and they both have played their parts extremely well. The story becomes more complex, and I personally loved the way VB has handled some of those transformations from Hamlet to Haider. So this powerful, energy song Bismil performed against the backdrop of ancient Martand  Sun Temple, and that is VB’s adaptation of Hamlet’s  ‘a play within a play’ – I think it goes with the movie quite well. Haider’s father’s ghost scene shows up quite intelligently without actually losing any sensibility of the narration – it stays in the twilight of a dream and haunting mystery. And yes, despite avoidable song in the graveyard – the Haider’s scene with the skull seems very apt there, yet another brilliantly woven Hamlet’s highlight. I think the best part is VB is insightful enough to capture the soul of Hamlet, yet courageous enough to narrate it in his own way as he deems fit, to the extent of deviating from Hamlet’s end as the film closes.  IMHO, the result of this in Haider is brilliant and mesmerizing in most parts.

Obviously, the idea is not to narrate the plot/story verbatim – most of us already know what it is all about. What stands out for me is the gutsy treatment and idea of merging Hamlet with Kashmir backdrop. Hamlet says, “There is  something rotten in the state of Denmark”; and in an Indian context I can’t think of any other state that would fit it well enough (Haider says, “पुरा काश्मिर ही एक कैदखाना है!”). There are lot of hidden gems and some really courageous scenes.  And this is where, I believe VB’s Haider rises to another level altogether. I loved many of them, but plan to list just a few favourites here.

One disturbing scene that I already mentioned above is about an old man’s son disappearing and Khurram offering him to get him accused in a false criminal case, and that just disturbs you imagining how traumatic it must be for families of innocent people getting detained, and then disappearing without any trace afterwords.

Then there are some dialogues and intense expressions that haunt you long after the movie is over… one such scene is the scene between Ghazala and Haider. And yes, this scene has VB’s signature visuals of mirror reflection between two central characters Haider & his mother.

Shahid & Tabu in Haider : Vishal Bharadwaj’s Signature Visual

Haider and his mother share a special bond in the film. He immensely loves his mother, abut he is unable to deal with her betrayal and her relationship with his uncle Khurram that would be culminating in a marriage soon after they know about his father’s death. Her love for Haider is paramount in her heart, as it becomes even more evident towards the end of the film. There is also a subtle hint of incestuous temptation between the two of them, especially from Haider’s side as he breathes his mother’s fragrance; perhaps searching for the same warmth and security that he associated with it as a child or maybe there is something else. All this is so beautifully captured in this short scene between the two – full marks to the screenplay, the director and the actors!

In this scene Ghazala tells him how Haider as as child was jealous of his father touching his mother and he would often fight with him. To which he blurts out, “And now uncle touches you, what do I do with him?”  (और अब चाचा आपको छुते है, उनका क्या करू मै? ) This scene is brilliantly performed by Tabu & Shahid Kappor – you have to give it to Shahid Kappor for showing his anger, disgust, some glimpse of madness and all this wrapped in tongue-in-cheek humour. He expresses all this in just few moments through his intense eyes and few facial expressions. It can send chill down your spine and one could instantly connect with the pain of this young man who really loved both his parents and can’t think of his mother with another man.

As you might have read/heard elsewhere, there are two Salmans in this film (representing Rosencrantz & Guildenstern from Hamlet) and they provide some lighter moments in this otherwise serious and dark movie, but their killing in the end is rather barbaric (though some gory details of this scene have been deleted from original Haider footage). That scene is amazing in terms of cinematography (Pankaj Kumar rocks!) – showing beautiful yet gloomy & scary landscape effortlessly, the irony and frustration of stones against army, cops, their power, Ikhwaan, and their advanced weapons. The battles seem as uneven as it could get! Despite Haider’s violence and killing two Salmans with those stones, you actually feel for Haider, as you already know that they were out their to kill him anyway.

Another subtle & intelligent direction by VB is when Arshi’s father (Lalit Parimoo) cooks biryani for her and feeds her with his hands a few times, and gently tells her to inform him about what messages Haider is receiving from Roohdaar and his next action plans so that they can take care of him. The poor, naive Arshi falls prey to her father’s devious tactics. Lalit Parimoo has portrayed a mean but deceptively gentle police officer and father quite effectively without using any gimmicks.

There are also some subtle, but meaningful references in seemingly casual conversations as well, and it’s more like playing intellectual treasure hunt when you notice them. One such is a passing reference is about Kaul saab, while Khurram and Arshi’s father are talking about an abandoned home. Khurram casually mentions about they (Kaul family) getting ‘shifted‘ to Bombay and then you notice that Kashmiri Pandits were in exile by 1995-96 and how it was casually referred as ‘shift’ by remaining locals there.

Another subtle, apparently funny but disturbing  scene is about a common Kashmiri man who wouldn’t enter his own house unless someone interrogates him and checks his ID. Co-writer Basharat Peer has played this small cameo. These small scenes do not exist without a reason in VB movies, they convey what they have to and they stay etched in your memory.

Haider has taught us a new word Chutzpah rhyming with AFSPA in this film, and though there is some criticism about its correct usage and pronunciation in the film, it has been intelligently used in the film is this scene and Haider’s monologue after his transformation following his father death. IMHO, this perhaps is the most courageous political statement made by this cinema (or any other cinema about Kashmir as far as I know), and I am really pleasantly surprised that Indian censor board has allowed to present it this way. Hats off to VB & Peer for this gutsy piece! Again, Shahid is insane & intense enough to pull it of so well –

There are lot of such scenes & moments that stay with you long after you have left the cinema hall. Some Kashmiri reviewers of the film have also complimented VB for maintaining the local dialect (Srinagar pronounced as ‘Sirinagar’, pronouncing ‘d’ in loved and all that). It would be impossible to extend this list further, there are so many of them surfacing in my mind as I write this. But let me stop here, it is already getting too long.

On acting front, the cinema truly belongs Shahid Kapoor & Tabu as son & mother. They both are exceptionally good in their unconventional and extremely complex roles. A special appreciation for Tabu as her role is negative for most part of the cinema and playing Shahid’s mother at her age is also commendable by Bollywood standards. Shahid is a revelation here, not sure why he chooses to do ‘Saree Ke Fall Sa …‘ and all that nonsense when he can do ‘Bismil’ and powerhouse performances in such movies. He has tremendous untapped potential behind his boyish, romantic looks and I genuinely hope that he doesn’t get painfully neglected by Bollywood like his talented father Pankaj Kapur. I am very curious to see how he transforms and chooses his next films after this role in Haider. I believe this experience must have been a turning point for him. This duo (Shahid & Tabu) is ably supported by K K Menon and Irrfan khan ( in a short role) and it would be redundant to say that these two actors perform really well. Let me say that they both live up to high expectations they have earned for themselves. Shraddha Kapoor brings some innocence and charm to this dark film, but probably she is the weakest link in this cinema as far as acting is concerned. But again, she has been handled quite well by the director and she is acceptable as lovable, naive Arshi in love with Haider.

The music is good and songs like Bismil and Jhelum Jhelum help the narration, but some others do distract a bit. Though I am not complaining much when Gulzar pens them and they are composed beautifully by Vishal Bharadwaj. The song Do Jahaan with few Kashmiri folk stanzas sung by Shraddha Kapoor is soulful, but the complete song is not included in the film. Though, I’d happily buy the OST album for this one song alone! 🙂

Talking about the music, I am also glad that VB is making some old gems popular through some of his films, in ‘Dedh Ishqiya‘ it was Begum Akhtar’s  Woh jo humme tumme quarar tha and in Haider it is Gulon mein ran bhare by Arijit Singh (Though I’d prefer Mehadi Hassan version any day). The song is apt for the Kashmir set-up and is used as a link between Haider & his father quite well.

Last words for the director, writer, producer & composer Vishal Bharadwaj. I think the best part of this film is its conception and execution. I am quite fascinated by the idea that he has blended Hamlet so well in the Indian context on Kashmir’s background. And he is clear from the title itself that it is Haider’s story, Kashmir is used very effectively only as a backdrop. He has done it remarkably well in Omkara, Maqbool and now Haider. For me it is difficult to choose between Omkara & Haider –  I didn’t like Ajay Devgan much in Omkara, though I think Omkara is a better film overall.

This Shakespeare films trilogy by Vishal Bharadwaj (Maqbool, Omkara & Haider) has a particular thread of betrayal by a close relation and all three films involve illicit man-woman relationship. Of course, in Omkara, the betrayal is more of Omkara’s suspicion rather than it being real, but the common thread runs between the three. In Maqbool as well as Haider, Tabu’s character is involved in an affair with other man which is instrumental in assassination of her husband/partner. Guess this is very peculiar of Shakespeare who quoted in Hamlet, “Frailty, thy name is woman”. Though Shakespeare’s plays are more than 400 years old, they have found growing interest in adaptions in various cultures & languages. Not only literature lovers, Shakespeare’s work has been even referred by founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud for the complex characters and their interpersonal relations. Freud read William Shakespeare in English throughout his life, and it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology may have been partially derived from Shakespeare’s plays. It is encouraging to see directors like Vishal Bharadwaj doing justice to Shakespeare’s work through this trilogy with consistent high quality.

Coming back to his latest Haider – I don’t know if it can be called as a GREAT cinema as per critics criteria, it even has some technical, factual silly errors in army operations as pointed out in this article. (Army didn’t have a RPG-7 in its inventory and the RL-84 Rocket launchers that it used never set buildings to fire. They just drilled holes through the walls. INSAS rifles in the movie set in 1995 when these weapons were introduced only in 1997 and few others. VB needs better research next time). There are also some obvious flaws in the narration and it definitely needed a slightly better editing. But frankly, it doesn’t affect the overall effect of the movie. For me, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts, and in this case I not only loved the small parts but in my opinion the whole is pretty impressive as well. It is definitely an important film by contemporary film-maker in India, and dare I add – it should be one of the important films in the Indian film history despite its flaws.

I am not a regular critic of cinema, but I am passionate about films and I don’t hesitate to write about my views when I feel strongly about a film. I am quite intrigued and impressed by this film. I have become quite restless ever since I have watched this film, and for the past 3 days I have read several blogs posts, articles, tweets, interviews and related stuff to know more about Haider, Hamlet adaptation and of course about Kashmir itself after Indian independence in 1947. And I would definitely like to add my own, personal opinions about all this.

The next part tries to discuss some issues, controversies & criticism about Haider and has a small list of references & further reading as well. >> Haider 3: Epilogue