Haider – It doesn’t strike one as an appealing piece of cinema, but come hell or high water this is certainly striking!

Bollywood_Haider

Haider (India/2014)

UK Release by UTV Motion Pictures – 2nd October 2014

Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj

Brief Synopsis: A retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a conflict driven state of war on terror. A young man returns to this homeland to discover shattering circumstances that lead to great strife – a maddening search for the truth begins. 

This film is a bomb. This abstract interpretation almost encapsulates everything about this film. On the surface level, the bomb ticks, it goes off and the aftermath brings devastation and then it goes off again to end all cause. On the second level, the aesthetic is in a constant stream of change, it is always amidst the very explosion of the bomb. On a third level, the bomb is even more timeless and clearly depicts the raw humanistic features of destruction that are inescapable. In other words, there is no escaping for the characters in the film and no escape for the audience either (apart from a short interval!).

I was initially puzzled, duly stunned and later on extremely tenterhooks as this exasperating and almost madly dramatic piece of cinema unfolded before me. It is not quite a masterpiece in the sense that I like to think of one; it is almost too impressive in its set pieces and brash in its revelations. It is too energised and well crafted in different places that it feels like three movies in one. However, Bhardwaj is no doubt impeccably masterful in his constructive shifting of tone and constant pace as the film progresses and reaches its intolerable climax.

I don’t feel fashioned enough to Bollywood cinema to understand fully what may lie between the lines, but the initial spectacle of this film is a truly global event and great cinema. Whilst the odd performance felt uncultivated, the lead Shahid Kapoor (Haider) expresses mind-blowing emotions and a fresh unveiling of traumatic circumstances that hits the mark of the near unthinkable. There are interesting relationships in this film; Haider’s relationship with his mother (Ghazala), played by Tabu with an almost equal intoxication, steals the show and presents a minefield of intricacies. A number of other relationships are explored with intricate detail, but perhaps there is too much shape-shifting going on.

Nevertheless, bring barrels of energy with you to the cinema because this is an exquisite treat of explosive and even poetic proportions. You will not guess all the plot twists and turns despite the Shakespeare outlet and you will become almost entranced by the magnetic lead performances.

4.5/5 stars

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4 thoughts on “Haider – It doesn’t strike one as an appealing piece of cinema, but come hell or high water this is certainly striking!

      1. Oh Boy! Where do I start? If you like classics, go for films like Awaara (1951), with Raj Kapoor & Nargis, Mughal-E-Azam (1960), true Historical story, Guide (1965), based on an English novel by R.k. Narayan (I highly recommend the book as well) Amrapali (1966), again true story (Historical film), Arth (1982), true story, based on the life of Mahesh Bhatt’s (director of the movie) affair with actress Parveen Babi, who suffered from schizophrenia, all her life. Darr (1993) & Yes Boss (1997) with Juhi Chawla, 1947Earth (1998), based on a true incident, based on the novel ‘The Ice Candy Man’ by Bapsi Sidhwa (Bapsi Sidhwa, who suffers from Polio, appears, as her older self, at the end of the film) Have the book, but haven’t read it yet. Black (2005), a Bollywood take on the famous Helen Keller story, ‘The Blue Umbrella’ (2005), a children’s films, and so many more.
        Besides Bollywood films (Commercial Hindi films), India has a lot more to offer.
        Indian art films, especially in Hindi and Bengali are superb – like Aranyer Din Ratri (1970) (in Bengali), Junoon (1979) (in Hindi) based on the novel ‘A flight of Pigeons’, based on a true story (again really good book), Utsav (1984)(hindi) with Rekha, ‘New Delhi Times’ (1986) (Hindi) with Shashi Kapoor.
        Then there are Indian English language films like ‘Shakespeare-Wallah’ (1965), with Shashi Kapoor, ‘Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie’s Pictures’ (1978), Heat and Dust (1983) et al, all Ismail Merchant/J.Ivory/Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Productions (After doing quite a few Indian English films in 60’s & 70’s, they later went on to make great British films like Room with a View (85′), Maurice (87′) & Howards End (93′), to name a few). Other great Indian English films include Aparna Sen’s ’36 Chowringhee Lane’ (1981), ’15 Park Avenue’ (2005) & ‘The Japanese Wife’ (2010).
        Then there are other films in other Indian languages made in different states, like ‘Des Hoyaa Pardes’ (2004) (from Punjab in Punjabi Language) a true story, ‘ Roja’ (1992) (from Tamil Nadu in Tamil language), Apur Panchali (2014) (from Bengal in Bengali language) a true story again, ‘Before the Rains’ (2007) (from Kerala, a bilingual in English & Malayalam) et al.
        I ought to stop now, for I’ll end up doing a whole post here.
        I’ve spoken about quite a few Indian films on my Blog as well, chk it out sometime.

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