Being an adaptation of Shapspearan tragedy, Hamlet, it is an arduous effort for me to write about the film as there is more to what facades the veneer. Even when espied on the shallows, it is a pulchritudinously agonising tale of loss, love and a crumbled family. The setting here is the beautiful yet turmoiled Kashmir, that is suffused with animosity. When Haider(Shahid Kapoor), returns to Srinagar to pursue answers for his father’s disappearance, what awaits him is a comprehensively contrasting home he knew before being forced by his mother, for his own good. Haider grapples with the world around him, where the trouble begins right from his home. His mother, just like Kashmir, is now different and the worse of all, she is now with the person Haider loathes. Writer-Director Vishal Bhardwaj builds Kashmir as a world that not just serves as a stage for his narrative to flow, but to a greater extent, its is an essential character that drives the character befittingly throwing obstacles time after time. Discard Kashmir from Haider or vice-versa; it is a film I cannot imagine. Such is the significance the location possesses. Pankaj Kumar’s visuals are breathtaking; in addition to capturing the panoramic beauty of Kashmir, he also confiscates the horrors deep down. The close-ups, accompanied by terrific acting performances, reveal how flawed these humans are.
Vishal Bharadwaj, who also composed the film’s music, endowed two tracks that are among the most potent and exceptionally choreographed music set pieces of Hindi cinema. For the duration of these songs, you feel the film is musical. And it puts music to the right employment. To express what the characters feel about others and actually conveying it on their faces. Bismil by Sukhwinder has abundant substance repleted in it to make a whole film out of it, had the song been adapted. But wait, it’s the other way. Bismil actually tells the whole story, it’s no Om Shanti Om, though! And, So Jao, employes the sound of shovels hitting the ground to dig a grave, as background beats. Sung by Bashir Lone, Muzamil Bhawani, and Bashir Bhawani, So Jao is a spooky and haunting piece of music, that expresses the human’s death and the uncertainty in what lies ahead. Shahid Kapoor as Haider makes you watch him as he walks a path whose endpoint is significantly different from the starting point. Throughout his implosive journey, the actor will make you feel what he is going through, even though we are distant and evidently parted by the screen. It is Tabu’s Ghazala, Haider’s mother, who is the heart of the film, and she could be the most erratic antagonist ever in Hindi cinema. But is she the antagonist, though? After all, she is the protagonist’s mother. Haider lets you think of the aftermath of the climax, which only great films do.
5 years later, Haider remains my favourite work of Vishal Bharadwaj and the favourite acting performance of Shahid Kapoor.