How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall’n on the inventors’ reads: all this can I
(Horatio, in Hamlet: Act 5, Scene 2)
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, imprisoned at Central Jail in Hyderabad (the one in Pakistan), wrote this in his book Dasht-e-Sabaa -
Maqaam faiz koi raah mein jaNchaa hi nahiN
Jo ko-e-yaar se nikle to su-e-daar chale
मुकाम फैज़ कोई राह में जँचा ही नहीं
जो कू -ए -यार से निकले तो सू -ए -दार चले
I didn’t care much for the stopovers on the way; So, I departed from the lanes of the beloved, towards the welcoming gallows
When you read Faiz, the revolutionary poet who was one of the pall bearers of progressive literature, often makes you think that his ghazals and nazms are romantic. Truth be told, they are one of the most definitive fusion of romance and revolution. One would never know for sure if gulon mein rang bhare was written as his yearning for his wife, or his yearning for freedom.
Somewhere, Dr. Meer is singing the same ghazal in an unidentifiably named prison MAMA2, and somewhere else in the movie, a young Haider/ Hamlet is expected to complete the couplet – chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka kaarobaar chale. And , roohdaar (Irrfan Khan – rooh= Ghost, daar = gallows/ house), the prison mate of Dr. Meer/ the ghost of King Hamlet, narrates the backstory.
Tell me now, why wouldn’t you fall in love with this movie?
The juxtaposition of scenes and characters is brilliant.
The movie begins with Dr. Meer (King Hamlet of Denmark) getting picked up by the army under AFSPA and disappearing after that, Ghazala/ Gertrude (Tabu) watching on as Zahoor prays while his band of extremists are taken out by the army and her house is blown up, a bearded hairy Haider/ Hamlet returning to find his father gone and his memories burnt to ashes, Arshia/ Ophelia (Shraddha) fighting for her independence while really being a stooge in a patriarchial society, General Parvez Lone/ Polonius (Lalit Parimu) playing the fine role of a suave strategist army man who would go any lengths to get his way, and finally, Khurram/ Claudius (Kay Kay), who is the slimy conniving uncle that he needs to be. The splitting of Horatio into two Salmans(Salman Khan wannabes) copying the dance steps of “mere rang mein rangne wali” is as brilliant a take as was the conversion of the three Macbethian witches into the two inspectors of Maqbool – “satta ke santulan ke liye aag ke liye paani ka bhay jaroori hai”.
And the final nail – Roohdaar, as the ghost of the dead King (Irrfan), whose puffed burnt eyes that are not able to sleep in the night.
Why would you not fall in love with this movie?
The acting is special. Even from Shahid Kapoor who everyone thinks will destroy his father’s rich legacy. Irrfan, Kay Kay, Tabu, Shraddha, Lalit Parimu and the others – they all just fit the piece.
The music, with the exception of ‘kabhi khul toh’, is intricately woven with the movie. A special standout mention for Bismil, So Jao and Jhelum. [on a separate note, purist as I am about ghazals, I think Arijit Singh has done a rather fine rendition of Gulon Mein]
The cinematography, coming from the man who gave us Ship of Thesus, brings the tragical beauty of Kashmir to life that few others have done.
The dialogues. Subhanallah. Almost poetic. Right from Chutzpah to Intequaam.
Editing – Again, with the exception of that one song, spot on. There are things left unsaid, unexplained. The audience is assumed to be smart enough to interpret or hypothesize. BTW, who was the man behind the mask? Does your heart go out for Dr. Meer who was supporting a terrorist? Oh wait, was that man a terrorist? Oh, but the army still did something horribly wrong, no? Wait, why are we discussing all this? Isn’t it about Haider’s search for his father and the revenge for what what was done to him? By his own brother? Was there a unrequited romance between Ghazala and Haider?
Who cares!! Enjoy the smartest movie of the year my friends! Movies like Haider, with the depth of screenplay, the finesse of dialogues, the detailing of characters, and beautiful visual storytelling, do not happen too often in Bollywood. That it’s a beautiful adaptation of Hamlet makes it more droolworthy*. That I was able to enjoy the movie so much despite me and the biwi having to take turns to play with Laddoo (who was exceptionally energetic all through the show only to drop off to sleep in the last 15 minutes of the movie) should stand testament to the brilliance of Haider.
[ *I never thought there could be another droolworthy adaptation of Hamlet after Hamlet-The Clown Prince.]
[Note: I don’t know which moron came up with the #BoycottHaider campaign. But then I don’t know why there is so much outrage on facebook and twitter about most inconsequential things either.]