Not the director's best but Haider must be watched

...If only for the courage shown by Vishal Bhardwaj in a film industry where mediocre means moolah, bold a semi-clad rain dance, and cliche a way to sell it better

sanskrita

Sanskrita Bharadwaj | October 15, 2014



After two weeks of huffing and puffing, I finally went and watched ‘Haider’. At this, I want to mention that I am a Vishal Bhardwaj fan and yet I found it hard to pull myself together and go watch his much-raved-about film. At the end, I mustered the courage to face it.

If you ask me why I did not have it in me to go watch a first-day-first-show, I would say, I was scared that I would end up just like one of my friends on Facebook, who were criticizing the film for various reasons. Here, I am not trying to say that ‘they’ do not have a choice and are not entitled to their opinion, but social media is a place where opinions are formed, and one tends to get influenced by the other.

An acquaintance said, “The film was edited badly.” I did not know what exactly he meant by that. I wanted to attack him with a blistering retort but unfortunately I couldn’t think of any. Instead, I said, “But..but it was like a beautiful play…”

I am not unfamiliar with the arguments against Haidar. The ones who are against it fall in two broad categories: those who believe that the film needs to be genuinely banned because it is anti-national and portrays the Army in bad light, and those who believe, like few of my friends that the film is rather mediocre in terms of film-making.

To the former type, I would like to say that it paints a picture, which minutely yet thought-provokingly describes a picture of the strife-torn Kashmir. Whether you would like to believe that picture or not is up to you but the picture allows one to think beyond the obvious.

But, it is the latter reason, which astounds me the most, like my acquaintance who nonchalantly dismissed the film because he thought it was not edited properly. The thing is I would have still bought his argument if he was Ram Gopal Verma but he is NOT (Thank God!). To all those who think it is a mediocre film and our film-making standards need to improve, I would like to ask, isn't there a need for our mainstream cinema to grow?

That apart, adapting Hamlet is tough. Well, because it is a Shakespearean tragedy. This one tries to do something braver -- it sets itself in Kashmir -- the most sensitive of all topics, discussions and places.

Most ‘liberals’ who denounced it may have probably never watched a Kurosawa or a Wang Kar Wai until last year. As for me, I was not born in Europe, where cinema reflects society and the life and times of people. I was born in India and that too in the north-east. Incidentally, Haider too revolves around the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is metaphorically referred to as ‘chutzpah’ in the film. It was first applied in Nagaland, then in Manipur in 1980 and later in Jammu and Kashmir.

I do not want to say that Haider is a masterpiece or the best by Bhardwaj. But, it is a film, which everyone must watch, irrespective of whether they like it or not. As Shekhar Gupta in an Indian Express article on October 9, 2014, said, “It takes a special Indian filmmaker to explore Kashmir as if the "other" side also had a story. It is, similarly, a compliment to the Indian censors, the Army and, most of all, paying public that Haider has been released in this form, torture chambers and all, and is a commercial success, defying hashtag McCarthyism.”       

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