Given the kind of films that have been releasing recently, what one sees is that there is a certain 'talking point' about every film that is coming out from Bollywood lately. Be it the hero's much-hidden secretive hairstyle, or the suspense of the film or maybe an integral cameo by a leading superstar, or as seen in current times, even adaptation of popular books or classic literature, which eventually gets all the possible mileage for the film before its release.
This week's release HAIDER comes from the stable of the 'thinking' filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj. After his earlier films MAQBOOL and OMKARA, Vishal brings to you yet another Shakespearean treat in the form of HAIDER, which is an Indian adaptation of Shakespeare's HAMLET. HAIDER stars some of the superlative talents of the country in the form of Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and others, which makes it needless to scale the level of expectations one would associate with this film.
HAIDER starts off circa 1995 in Srinagar, where military rule reigned supreme. The film is about Haider (Shahid Kapoor), who is the son of Dr. Hilal Meer (Narendra Jha) and Ghazala (Tabu). One day, when Dr. Meer brings home a militant for treatment; this 'information' gets leaked to the military forces, which leads to a crackdown of the army, who in turn, land up blowing their house in front of Tabu and others. Post this; Dr. Meer goes missing, which leaves his wife Ghazala as 'half-widow'. Taking advantage of the situation, his brother Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) ends up marrying Ghazala, whom he always addresses as 'bhabhi jaan' but is madly in love with. This is something that Haider doesn't approve of, because he still believes that his father is alive somewhere. That's when he confronts his mother openly disapproving of her relationship with Khurram. Amidst all this, the only person who stands by him through the thick and thin is his love Arshia Lone (Shraddha Kapoor), who is a journalist by profession. The search for his father leaves Haider with no time for anything else. That's when one day, a certain Roohdaar (Irrfan Khan) appears out of nowhere and trails Arshia only to pass Haider a message from his father. When Haider meets Roohdaar, the latter explains everything in detail to him, right from Khurram's evil plans to trap his father to Khurram's affair with his mother. But, when Haider confronts his uncle Khurram, the uncle has a totally different story to tell about Roohdaar, which only confuses Haider further. A very helpless Haider is now torn apart in all the directions, because of his father's grief, his anger for his uncle and his unsaid and unspoken longing for his mother.
Does Haider succeed in finding his father and does he succeed in conquering the love of his life, does he finally get to hear the whole truth from his mother, forms the rest of the story.
Even though the film's director Vishal Bhardwaj is known for his thoughtful and meaningful cinema, HAIDER is interesting only to a certain extent. The film, that starts off on a promising note in the first half slowly losses its fizz as the story progresses. While the first half is engaging to a large extent, despite its slow pace, the same cannot be said about the second half, which drags endlessly. Crisp editing is the secret that could have saved the film from being a yawn-trip by the end. The length of the film is definitely a big issue here.
What however keeps the audience glued to the chair through this dragging affair is the brilliant performances by all the actors. Do not miss Shahid's explanation of the term 'chutzpah' to everyone.
HAIDER definitely is Shahid Kapoor's best performance till date. It is one of the complex roles that he has taken up till date and he definitely gets into the skin of the character. Shraddha Kapoor, who is seen here after her last hit EK VILLAIN, seems to have perfected her Ps and Qs of emotions and even the 'Kashmiri English'. She is loveable in her part as the innocent girl who is madly in love with Haider. Even though Narendra Jha, who plays Shahid's father, doesn't have many scenes in the film, his voice haunts you till the end, as he seeks revenge from his brother. Kay Kay Menon, as the evil mind uncle, also delivers what was expected of the role. The show stealer of the whole film is indeed the firebrand actress Tabu, who as Ghazala, towers over everyone. The rest of the actors (Kulbhushan Kharbanda after a long time on screen, Aashish Vidyarthi, Aamir Bashir and others) simply help in moving the film forward. Here, a special mention goes to the duo that plays 'Salman Khan do-alikes'.
Even though the music (Tushar Parte- Simaab Sen) of the film is soulful and heartening at places, it lacks the required lustre. With the exception of the lavishly shot 'Bismil' song, all the others look and sound just about average. While the film's choreography (Sudesh Adhana) is average, a special mention goes to the costume designer Dolly Ahluwalia for having come up with some of the most brilliant costumes for the characters. The film's cinematography is first-rate.
On the whole, HAIDER is targeted more at niche multiplex audience and not for the masses, which may work against the film. Add to that, the lesser number of screens available for the film and its release alongside the gigantic competitor film BANG BANG may just see the film struggling at the Box-Office.