I am not a movie buff or a film critic, but given the interest Vishal Bardhwaj’s ‘Haider’ generated within and outside Kashmir valley I couldn’t resist the temptation of watching this movie. It has undoubtedly blazed a new trail in projecting the Kashmir imbroglio, although it is just the tip of an iceberg and the way the story progresses, I could raise a number of objections.
The film has tried to project the intense sufferings Kashmiris had to undergo in ’90s during military crackdowns and encounters between militants and government forces.
‘Haider’ starts with a very moving scene in which a doctor secretly operates upon a militant at his home. However, government forces get to know about it and on the next day the military cordons off the village. Reminiscent of the old, bone-chilling times, the people are called from the public address system of a mosque to assemble where they are paraded in front of a masked informer. The doctor is apprehended, and thus begins the struggle for a young Kashmiri who soon returns from Aligarh. This young Kashmiri is ‘Haider’, played by Shahid Kapoor, who happens to be the central character of this movie.
The good thing about this movie is that it has accepted the historical contours of the Kashmir issue. The SP downtown reminds ‘Haider’ of the promises of plebiscite Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru had made with the people of Kashmir at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. However, the film is apologetic in as much as it brings Pakistan in the picture to balance the tide.
I have never seen any seriousness on the part of Indian establishment during the last two decades to resolve the Kashmir issue even when Kashmir was burning and it shot into the world limelight. That Kashmir is endangering the security and stability of South Asia can be gauged from the fact that any 26/11 like incident brings India and Pakistan on the brink of a nuclear war. And then we should not ignore that Kashmir has remained at the centre of three Indo-Pak wars fought since the Partition.
Yes, the assertion made in the movie that in the fight between two elephants the grass gets trampled over makes a clear reference to the trauma the people of Kashmir have to face daily in different forms. And then ‘Haider’ in his pheran-clad appearance at historic Lal Chowk laments that no one wants to hear what the people of Kashmir want! Quite true. The sentiment of ‘Azaadi’ or freedom from both India and Pakistan is overwhelming, a fact attested by various surveys.
The movie has brought forward a great humanitarian issue which corners around the plight of the families whose dear ones were subjected to enforced disappearances. Haider’s father too had to face the same trauma. And then some glimpses of the interrogation centers where the people of Kashmir were subjected to extreme barbarism by the government forces are shown which will definitely send shivers down the spine of all those who faced those torture chambers.
Moreover, the background for creation of a group Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen (detested renegades) and the role of state task force (police) to curb down the militancy with an iron hand is shown. However, the army, ironically, fades into oblivion as the movie progresses and the whole story centers around the revenge which takes away the taste of otherwise a very moving movie. Though one has to understand that the movie is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which the protagonist seeks revenge for the death of his father. So quite understandable that the director has his own limits.
Needless to mention, the Army is held responsible for a series of massacres and the incidents like Kunan Poshpora mass rape. Army was and is still dreaded by a common Kashmiri. Yes, the Ikhwanis and the police left no stone unturned in inflicting the worst ever cruelties on Kashmiris. That people were tortured even for naming a place as Islamabad (even out of habit and in the historical context) sums up the story. Further, the persecutions, disabilities and sufferings the families associated with militancy have to endure in as much as the next of kin of a militant is denied a passport makes ‘Haider’ a good watch.
However, one needs to delve deeper into different scenes to get to the subtleties and also gauge a good idea of subjectivity. It is quite depressing that the second part of movie focuses on Haider’s resolve to take revenge from his uncle who was responsible for his father’s disappearance to ensure his marriage with his brother’s wife. Lust and revenge form the central theme in the second part of the movie which leaves an onlooker in lurch at the end.
The collective movement of the people of Kashmir for their dignity and freedom is vainly attempted to revolve around the subject of revenge. It is a crude joke with the sentiments of the people of Kashmir. Kashmir is a case of broken promises and it would have been much better had the film come up with a roadmap for the resolution of Kashmir issue.
Summing up, I was highly impressed with the performance of the trio –Shahid Kapoor, Tabu and Irrfan Khan. The use of Kashmiri words and a few folk songs have added aroma to the movie.