Direction: Vishal Bhardwaj
Actors: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Shraddha Kapoor
There is much in Haider that deserves a standing ovation. Let’s start with the courage of director Vishal Bhardwaj. Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult and ambiguous texts. It’s also his longest— it takes over four hours to deliver.
Hamlet in itself is a beast to be tamed. Vishal and his co-writer, the acclaimed Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer, transplant the play to Kashmir. It plays out against a socio-political tragedy that has been wrought over six decades and that has a Rashomon-like quality to it — the heroes and villains switch places, depending on the narrator.
The result is a film that is problematic and far too long, but also thrillingly ambitious and powerful.
The action takes place in 1995. There is something rotten in paradise. Pura Kashmir quaid khana hai, a character remarks. Haider, played by Shahid Kapoor, returns home from Aligarh.
His father, a doctor who tries to save a militant’s life, has been imprisoned by the army. His house has been razed. His mother Ghazala, played by Tabu, has moved into his uncle’s house. The air is thick with deceit. Haider the poet slowly transforms into Haider the murderer.
Haider was shot almost entirely in Kashmir, but Vishal isn’t interested in presenting the picturesque tourist spots. Instead, we see narrow lanes, unadorned homes and swathes of snow that turn red as the bodies pile up. Vishal doesn’t flinch from brutality — men are murdered and abducted by Indian forces while women weep and a strange madness envelops the land. It’s horrific.
It’s also stretched and structurally disjointed. At one point, a romantic song randomly interrupts the flow. The Kashmiri accents are inconsistent. In places the narrative meanders, and Vishal seems to be losing his grip. At times, I got restless and wondered if perhaps the makers had bitten off more than they could chew.
But the one thing that doesn’t falter is the talent. Kay Kay Menon, whose ability is wasted in films like Raja Natwarlal, returns to form as the conniving advocate who covets his brother’s wife.
Irrfan Khan, playing the militant Roohdaar, brings an unflashy competence to the story. In the beginning, Shahid seems out of his depth; this is, after all, one of the toughest roles in literature.
One that actors like Sir Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh wrestled with. But slowly Shahid comes to inhabit Haider, veering from rage to jealousy to madness in a heartbeat. And towering above them all is Tabu— the mother who aches, loves and ultimately loses.
At the heart of Haider is the love between a passionate, complex woman who seeks a sliver of happiness amidst overwhelming circumstances, and her son, who both loves her with an unnatural intensity and hates her for her betrayal of his father. Vishal handles the Oedipal undertones with exquisite daring and understanding. This relationship powers the film. Haider must be seen for this alone.
Go into the film knowing that it is problematic and unwieldy. And that it is one side of the story — Kashmiri Pundits get a token mention and, after being cast as the villain, the Indian army gets a line of praise for its handling of the floods in Kashmir.
Those are stories that perhaps other filmmakers will choose to tell. But I can guarantee that you will emerge from Haider shell-shocked. And when was the last time a Hindi film did that to you?
Thoughts on AR Rahman’s gloriously fun and wholly individual soundtrack for the new Shankar film.
You know that familiar Tamil-cinema contrivance where a prisoner in handcuffs is being led away in a police van, and the van stops at a crossing, and the prisoner looks around furtively and sees a chance, and as the cops are looking the other way (or maybe after a scuffle) he slips out and runs into the forest, and he runs and he runs, and then, in a clearing, there’s a conveniently located shack where a sweaty smithy is pounding away on an anvil, and he looks up and sees those handcuffs in front of his nose, and he brings his hammer down and frees the prisoner? That’s the picture that kept coming to mind as I listened to AR Rahman’s soundtrack for Shankar’s I. Free. That’s what Rahman sounds like here. Free from the constraints of Tamil cinema. Free from hewing to situations. Free to leap off a cliff and land on a passing cloud and float away for a while. Whatever you think of Shankar’s filmmaking, you have to give him this: he wields one hell of a hammer. He liberates Rahman.
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has crossed over 10 million followers on Twitter.
The actor is prolific on the microblogging site and is the most followed user on Twitter in India.
The 71-year-old star, who has acted in more than 180 films, recently made his Hollywood debut in a new adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
He also hosts the hugely popular Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. (more…)
Raja Natwarlal had poor collections on day one as it collected around 5 crore nett on day one. Mumbai circuit was a bit better as Gujarat and Saurashtra fared better and by far the best collections across India. It was a holiday in Maharashtra and Gujarat and that helped Mumbai circuit compared to rest of India but even with holiday Mumbai can not be called good.
The rest of the country was poor with North and Central recording dull collections and also not showing that major jump in the evening shows which was needed.
Lyon (France): Internationally-renowned Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has been roped in as an ambassador for Interpol’s “Turn Back Crime” campaign to promote awareness on how everyone can play a role in preventing crime.
Shah Rukh, said to be the first Indian to be made an ambassador for the global campaign, is lending his voice to help spread the message that all of society benefits when citizens respect law and fight crime.
“It’s a very special honour to be a part of Interpol’s ‘Turn Back Crime’ campaign as an ambassador,” said Shah Rukh. (more…)
Before I go into my views about Ek Villain, I’d like to state that I am a huge fan of “I Saw the Devil (ISTD)” (on which Ek Villain is based) and I consider it a cinematic masterpiece. When I heard that Mohit Suri is making an Indian version of ISTD I was contrastively (9 out of 10 times I hate Indianized version of classics) quite glad and upbeat about it. Reason: From the very first time I watched ISTD, I have always felt that it has a very universal story and despite all the violence its core element: “The story of ultimate pain and suffering and confronting it” is applicable to almost every variety of people.
What went unforgivably wrong in Ek Villain is the understanding of the story of ISTD by the director. I think Mohit Suri saw it as a story of revenge rather than for what it was. Throughout ISTD the audience witnesses the attitude of the protagonist (The husband) and it becomes very clear, how deeply hurt he is with his wife being killed. It is this pain and suffering that made him do what he did to the killer. In Ek Villain the director and the writers fail to portray that in Siddharth’s character. Even though the actor tried his level best but the treatment did not back him up at all.
Mohit Suri gets full marks in developing a back story and actually making it very Indian and very entertaining but what he completely messes up is establishing a connection of the husband’s grief with the audience. Despite the back story as an audience I hardly felt sorry for the husband’s character compared to what I felt for the same character in ISTD (even though there wasn’t a back story). (more…)
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