People living in conflict zones globally share a fated suffering of “to be or not to be.” Vishal Bhardwaj’s gut wrenching, powerful Haider is a Shakespearean adaptation of Hamlet. the tragic hero of this tale is no prince but the state of Kashmir. Kashmir land-locked and claimed by the governments of India and Pakistan is burning and burying bodies on both ends of the border. So if Kashmir is Hamlet, Shahid Kapoor plays a symbolic Kashmir as the lead character “Haider” he evokes a beautiful, painful self-awareness; he has an anger fueled insanity in his grief and as moral person he struggles with himself to do the wrong thing for the right reason. Haider is in perpetual agony like his home state of Kashmir, he is born in a conflict zone of a discontent marriage — his mother doesn’t love his father and a sociopath paternal uncle covets his mother. Haider’s personal life plays out the geopolitical rife of war torn Kashmir, nobody belongs to him yet he can’t disavow anyone, lingering between sanity and madness interminably questioning truth and death. An existential backdrop exists in state and self. Cast, cinematography, soundtrack, screenplay, direction amalgamates into art. Pure art. Haider is conscious provoking, controversial conversational art. Like a kaleidoscope, Bashreet Peer and Vishal Bhardwaj’s brilliant writing breaks cliches with storytelling turns bringing light new perspectives. Haider’s dialogues are poetry personified, weighted in introspection and insight but never so heavy-handed it ceases to be relatable. I have seen innumerable adaptations of Hamlet, Vishal’s Haider will continue to haunt me as the most eloquent. tragic, yet hopeful.
My favorite song in the movie “So Jao” riddled my arm with goosebumps. The scratching sound of shovel on snow, gravediggers singing a welcoming song of death juxtaposed on a infectious hummable beat, it palls a devastating dark reality (we really are eventually digging our own graves). Only Gulzar saab of crisp starched whites, the prolific, poet monk could write such a stark, creepy ode in mellifluous meter.