The fact that Haider is based on Hamlet made me curious to watch it, as soon as it is released. So, what was next? I booked my tickets and sat out for Haider show. While watching the movie, my mind was judging the similarities, dissimilarities between the movie and the Shakespeare’s play. I was constantly comparing the story and the plot and trying to judge which one was better.
What I had thought to be a re-telling of Hamlet, turned out to be a different story in itself. Yes, Haider is an ‘Adaptation’ of Hamlet and not a copy of Hamlet. And for this originality and awesome story, Vishal Bhardwaj secures all 100 points from me.
Before I further get into the film, here is the list of characters of Hamlet, on which Haider’s characters are based:
Gertrude – Ghazala aka Tabu
Prince Hamlet – Haider aka Shahid Kapoor
Late King Hamlet – Dr. Hilal Meer, Shahid’s dad
Ghost – Roohdaar aka Irrfan Khan
Claudius – Khurram aka Kay Kay Menon
Ophelia – Arshia aka Sharaddha Kapoor
Polonius – Pervez aka Sharadha Kapoor’s dad
The first part of the film is slow. I mean, the story takes time to pick up and since it was a 2 ½ hrs film, they need to build the atmosphere. So, what happens in the first part? It begins with the disappearance of Shahid’s dad and we come to know that he is a good man who helped even the militants despite his wife’s displeasure. His needy and good nature leads him to trouble and he and his wife are shunned by the society as militants.
Haider returns to see his mother staying happily with his uncle (his father’s brother), here the things are twisted, as in the play, Hamlet returns to know that his mother has already married his uncle and his father died in the battle. Nevertheless, given to the Kashmiri backdrop, most importantly Indian, a straight away love affair or marriage is not accepted.
Some of the twists in the film by Bhardwaj are done by keeping the demographic and geographic differences in mind, which was much needed. Haider sets out to find about his father, thinking that his mother and uncle have moved on in their lives. This was unlike the play, where Hamlet was commanded in the very beginning by his father’s spirit to avenge his death. Through Hamlet’s journey to find his father, Bhardwaj uses the opportunity to put forth the conditions of Kashmiri’s, whether they are Muslims or pundits. In a valley, known for its beauty and a place considered to be heaven on earth, life is hell. In the midst of politics and constant power play, unfortunate things keep happening to residents of the place.
The film really picks up after Roohdar aka Irffan Khan is introduced. My excitement also rose up a notch at this point because all the while, I was wondering, “how will Bhardwaj introduce the supernatural elements?” The answer was simple, instead of disturbing them; he turns those elements into a helpful bunch of people who served the imprisonment together with Shahid’s dad.
So, now Haider is sure that his father is dead and acts to play mad like Hamlet did to know the truth. Another fact where Bhardwaj rocked is the song, ‘Bismil.’ Those who have not read the play, Hamlet is the only play in literature to have a ‘play’ within the play. Yes, Hamlet enacts a play to find out the truth about his uncle and Haider does the dame to warn his mother.
But, Kay Kay Menon is too smart and is a step ahead and covers it up. Oh, did I forget to mention that by now Tabu & Kay Kay Menon are married? Now, going back to Hamlet, after the play, Hamlet’s mom comes to know about truth and accidently dies by drinking the poisoned wine kept for Claudius. But, here Bhardwaj twisted the story and kept it to Oedipal complex, which by the end forms a major part of the story.
So, our young Haider who cannot bear to share his mother, escapes vowing to avenge his father’s death. In the peaceful valley of Kashmir, what follows is betrayal and bloodshed. Haider is quite a violent film but since bloodshed was forbidden to be shown on stage in Shakespearean & Elizabethan age, Hamlet had all these in form of Chorus enactment.
Moving further, a mass murder happens and Polonius and his son dies, which goes as per the play. They even die over there. And, here, Tabu finally realisses that she is wrong and she decides to meet Roohdar. Eventually, the setting shifts to a graveyard, which makes for a breathtaking view. The song ‘Aao Na ki ab jaan gayi… aa bhi jao’ is actually shot on the graveyard diggers who after digging lay down in the graves themselves. It shows the brilliance of the director. The thing I learnt is that the Kashmiri people prefer to die than live. After all, showing id cards and being questioned everyday, just ruins the beauty of living, right?
Coming to the climax, the end does not let us feel empathetic towards any of the characters except Tabu. At least I felt empathetic towards her. In the climax, where everyone is dead at the end of play, Haider ends with Haider & Kay Kay Menon left alive. Over here, Bhardwaj changed the tale and ended by portraying the virtue of forgiveness. When, Haider is tore between following his father’s last wish or his mother’s last words, he chooses peace because after his mother’s death, nothing is important to him.
But in Hamlet, everyone dies including Hamlet, which makes us feel empathetic. The whole point of Tragedy is when we sympathize with the Hero because he is great but his one flaw makes him meet his end. However, over here, I come out from theatre with peace and a relaxed mind because keeping in mind the on-going troubles in the valley; we need forgiveness& love and not bombs and military control.
Also, a twist given by Bhardwaj is the display of human affection and emotions. Kay Kay Menon may be a bad guy still he loved Tabu dearly. It is a thing which Hamlet doesn’t have, as Hamlet is more about power play while Haider seemed to me as more of a personal play.
Haider in its own is a beautiful story. Hamlet is a story of revenge while Haider is more of Oedipal complex. It is a loss of a son that triggers him to vent out things in a violent manner.
Quite notable thing about Haider is the use of correct dialogues at the perfect times, for example –
· “Haider, mera inteqaam lena mere bhai se... uski un dono aakh mei gooliyaan daagna, jin aakho se usne tumhari maa par fareb daale the” – this is a urdu cum Kashmiri translation of Hamlet’s spirit when he asks his son to avenge his death.
· “Dil ki agar sunu toh tu hai... Dimag ki sunu toh tu hai nahi. Jaan lun ki Jaan dun? Main rahoon ki main nahi” – Haider’s inner conflict more close to “To do… or not to… that is the confusion” dialogue of Hamlet.
· “Aap Doctor hai kya? Main Doctor ki Rooh Hu” – this almost set me thinking that Haider’s father spirit has changed the face.
Scenes that stand out:
1. Shahid & Tabu’s conversation in the first part –It is heart breaking to watch when Shahid crumbles down on realizing that his father may never return. More than that, we realize that Tabu is a half-widow who nor can celebrate the married life nor live a widow life. Moreover, the fact that everyone accepts her to change and adapt is excruciatingly cruel. Nobody bothers to ask her how as a woman, wife and mother does she feel!
2. Grave diggers – As mentioned earlier, the song ‘Aao Na’ is picturized on grave diggers. A grave for others is a thing to be frightened about but for them, it is a place of solace. They calmly dig up graves and find peace in them. Also, hinting to the fact that your grave may be the same as someone else’s because the ratio of people dying is more than living. Tragic, no?
3. Shahid and Tabu’s conversation in part 2 – It is a conversation that happens in their old burnt house when she realizes that his uncle is the culprit. How amazing is it? You have to watch the movie for o know. A lesson the scene teaches us is, no outsider should be trusted with the secrets of our household.
4. The Climax scene – Watch it!