I had to come out of (self-induced) blogging retirement to tell you all about this movie, which is, by far and away, the best movie I have seen all year. I am not exaggerating. You know how good this movie was? It was so good that after the movie was over we all had to pile into four separate cars and drive to two separate places just to continue talking about this movie, breaking it down and trying to identify each and every part of this movie that made it so special.
I am of course talking about… Bang Bang.
No kidding, kidding! Haider is not just the best Bollywood movie I have seen in recent memory, but the best movie all around. Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj this movie is the third installment in Bhardwaj’s canon of transposing Shakespearean tragedies into an Indian setting, while building on that integral theme of the play which translates so easily into a Indian story. For this installment, he chose the story of Hamlet, a Danish prince who returns home to find his father dead under mysterious circumstances and his mother being protected by his uncle. As the clues around his father’s death beget more questions instead of answers, Hamlet becomes haunted by his inability to avenge his father and the fabric of his family becomes unravelled and his mind becomes unhinged.
Ease of Pardesi Comprehension: Language 2.0/5
The subtitles seemed pretty accurate, however one song did not have any subtitles, but the other one did as it was more integral to the plot I think. The movie also takes place in an area where Urdu and Pushto are more heavily spoken, so even Hindi speakers might have struggled with the dialogue.
Ease of Pardesi Comprehension: Subject 4.5/5
The only reason that I am not given this a full 5 out of 5 is because the conflict in Jammu Kashmir which is woven into the central story of Hamlet is one that is unknown to a lot of people in the West. I certainly had no idea to what extent the region was in constant turmoil and chaos, and how hellish the circumstances were for those people whose husbands and sons were simply taken away without ever giving the family any sense of closure, no matter how difficult. However, the story of Hamlet is unmistakeable, which makes the plot easily understandable for anyone with a vague knowledge of the play. Even for those who have never read Hamlet, I think the movie will make sense, although I would strongly recommend that any viewer familiarize themself with the story, because otherwise a lot of the smaller plot points might not make as much sense.
Overall Quality of the Movie: 5/5
What amazed me the most about this film was how easily the director was able to lift the plot almost directly from the play and transpose into the setting of the bitter fighting that took place over Jammu Kashmir in the 1990s (a choice that is all the more poignant given the recent resurgence in fighting between India and Pakistan). I was incredibly impressed with Shahid Kapur’s performance, it was great to see him playing a non-fluffy role. And the Salmans were a much needed comedic element that managed to somehow highlight the absurdity in the miserable story without detracting from it. In fact, the acting was brilliant all around, while Tabu in the role of Haider’s mom Ghazala stole the movie hands down, and really brought out the manipulation of Hamlet’s mother in a way that makes you profoundly uncomfortable.
The way that Bhardwaj handled the central theme of Revenge and how the absence of it’s desired conclusion can impact the human spirit was so aptly appropriated to the tragic story of Jammu Kashmir. My favorite line from the movie, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass underfoot that is trampled” perfectly encapsulates the struggle in Jammu Kashmir, and, I might argue, the struggle in Haider’s mind. In this movie, Haider not only embodies the story of Hamlet and his story of manipulation and mistrust, but he also embodies the current manipulation of Jammu Kashmir by both India and Pakistan, torn between the two yet never allowed to be fully separate. And it is this multi-layered adaptation and interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, that makes this movie so great. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that this movie should be nominated for an Oscar, but it probably will not be.
Number of Catchy Songs: 2
There are only three or four songs in the whole movie, and I can’t believe I am going to say this, but the love song in the movie was completely unnecessary and should have been removed. To the extent that I do not really consider this a Bollywood movie, because there was only one dance sequence, and the other songs were central to the plot itself, rather than clumsily inserted excuses to see item girls and sexy dance numbers.
So have you seen Haider yet? What did you think? Feel free to leave some suggestions of Bollywood films you would like me to review!