It would have taken a disaster of monumental proportions for me not to like Haider. The third of Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare adaptations, Haider is such an accomplished and complete film that I was hooked from the go and despite what some might consider slow pacing, I used the time to absorb all the details on screen – the cinematography, the set design, the music and of course the story itself. Using the backdrop of Kashmir is an inspired idea and gave new dynamic to what is quite a static inspiration.
Haider tries hard not to comment or get involved in any political commentary though at times it is unavoidable – the Jhelum song or Haider’s protest post interval certainly stand out. I also loved what Bhardwaj did with the Ghost/Roohdaar which was smart and paid service to both the film as a separate entity and its source material (and in that order too). I also could not get enough of the world Bhardwaj creates – cold and stark yet colourful, lots of beautiful dialogue that is economical yet incredibly dense in metaphor and a heart of darkness that never really goes lighter than grey.
Performance wise, Shahid gives the best performance of his career – Hamlet is a challenge for any actor and Bhardwaj pulls off a miracle in getting Kapoor into a different head space convincingly. Shradda takes a bit more time but also give a career best turn here. Khan is subtle and underplays his role to good effect. For me, it was Menon and Tabu who held me riveted throughout- Menon makes his Khurram evil but convincing whilst Tabu plays Ghazala with sympathy and strength – I loved how there was a secret dimension to the character that would the viewer gets glimpses of but never fully sees.
Haider is one of the best films of 2014 and is certainly Bhardwaj on wonderful form. The thought and effort that has gone into every frame is evident to see and the way the film credits its audience with intelligence is both refreshing and most welcome. I cannot wait to watch it again – it felt like reading a wonderful novel that fully engages and even if one knows what is to come, there is still an element of freshness and surprise. Haider is quite simply unmissable and a film that is inspired and will hopefully inspire many more films of this ilk.