Few Thoughts on Haider

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Haider-movie-2nd-day-collection

I, like many others of my generation, grew up on an oily diet of Kashmir masala films.

Roja. Which, besides introducing this guy called A R Rahman, gave hope to boys like me that you could have a physique like ArvindSwamy but still get to curl your fingers around the shapely waist of a Madhu, if you play the marriage cards right or if the script-writer writes that in the script for you.

Pukaar. Where sinister plots from across the border are spoiled by Anil Kapoor’s verdant chest hair.

Mission Kashmir. A convicted Bombay Blast accused played a patriotic cop and where the man who single-handedly wiped out polio played a terrorist.

Countless other action films, their names a-blur, typically starring Sunny Deol, in which all laws of physics and common sense could be violated as long as Pakistani ass was being mausichi-ed.

The rhetoric was simple. Pakistan was evil, India was good, Kashmiris were misguided and all would be well in the end if the pesky Pakistanis and their agents were demolished.

When I came out of the theater after seeing Haider, I was happy I had seen a film that had flipped the formula. I was happy that finally the censors were letting audiences decide what was wrong and what was right and that there were no bans or stay-orders or any of the other silliness that has so stifled the free expression of ideas in India,  a fact that was doubly surprising given that our wise mediwallahs had been prophesying a dystopian Hitlerian Bharat of suppress-oppress-depress ever since that man took over.

Haider is a film that deserves to be seen. It is about as ingenious an adaptation of Hamlet that you could hope to see, true to form and structure and with enough “A-ha that was nicely done” moments which make it more than worth the price of admission. Tabu is sensational, the cinematography marvelous, and Shahid Kapoor abandons his “saaj daaj ke tashan mein rahena” mainstream leading man avatar for something different, the kind of risk most of his contemporaries would not even consider taking. Haider is not perfect of course, with Shraddha Kapoor recycling her Aarohi expressions, the Rosencratz-Guildenstern Salmaniacs  hammy in a Keshto Mukherjee comedy track kind of way, and the politics of the film suffocating the narrative at several places. But even then it is pretty darn impressive, particularly in an age where people like me who love cinema have given up on Bollywood producing anything except 100-plus-crore targeted products of the Bang-Bang variety.

The pity though is that Haider is just as black and white as anything Sunny Deol would have put his name to, as jingoistic in its propaganda and as selective in its portrayal of reality as its less pretentious cousins.

To be honest, any time you name your villain as Abhrush as Pukaar does or the director’s credit says Guddu Dhanoa, you are not expecting the audience to take you seriously.

However Haider wants you to trust that it is painting the real picture of Kashmir, anchoring the story to actual incidents and making the film realistic and gritty, and then for good measure, harping on the “this is the true story of Kashmir” angle in the movie promotions.

This is definitely not fiction, in the way Mission Kashmir is, and it would be naive to argue otherwise.

It is pointed political propaganda.

And that’s where it goes wrong for me.

Haider starts off with the honest, upright doctor, with the sad gentle face, who also own ponderous books titled Physics in his library (alert: intellectual), being called by “independence fighters” to take out the infected appendix of its leader. Now being a dutiful doctor, he not only treats his patient, a criminal as per the laws of the Indian state, but extends the scope of the Hippocrates oath to also hide him in his emergency vehicle and bring him home. Now in some places, this might be defined as “harboring a criminal and aiding and abetting crimes against the state” but in the world of “Haider”, this is positively heroic, because of course the Indian state is the criminal and this person is a freedom fighter. The Indian Army comes, the doctor comes out holding his passport where he is identified by a masked traitor sitting in the car (There is a gigantic plot-hole here, given the resolution, but I am not getting into that, trying to keep this as spoiler-free as possible). The Indian Army goes into his house where they are fired on by the Azaadi-fighters with AK47s. Taking losses, the commanding officer decides to mortar down the house because he does not want to risk the lives of any more of his officers.

In some other film, this might seem to be the rational decision given that there are terrorists armed to the teeth firing back from the house.

But Haider is no “some other film”. Here it’s all symbolic. Tabu is the state of Kashmir, Shahid Kapoor the conscience, and Kay Kay Menon…well watch it to see what he is. And that broken down house is symbolic of the cruelty of the Indian state, as we are shown how Haider, the son of the doctor, mopes about its ruins, remembering days gone by.

Bharadwaj is pulling the heartstrings here and there is no doubt where your sympathies are supposed to lie.

And so it goes, Haider alternating between story and blunt political sloganeering.

There is nothing new about the version of events of course, this is the official azaadi narrative.

The Kashmiri-fighters are innocent lambs who only fire when fired upon,  the real terrorists are the Ikhwan-ul-Muslemoons, agents of the Indian army tasked with extrajudicial killings of the Azaadi-fighters, Kashmir is a big open-air prison for its denizens, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is the worst instrument of India’s aggression.

As I said, nothing new.

However even more important than what Haider keeps in is what it keeps out.

While there are anti-India graffiti scribbled everywhere on the walls, there are no green flags of Islam (not any I saw),  no Islamic slogans, no “Kashmiri Hindu men leave Kashmir but leave your wives and daughters” naarebaazi, or any kind of religious symbolism that characterizes the radical-Islamic nature of the Kashmir struggle.  In each frame, Bharadwaj drains out the radical green and colors the struggle with the neutral black color of secular suffering and “azaadi”. This de-religionization of the most radical agitations is the  intellectual subterfuge that allows self-avowed Leftists to throw their lot in with Islamic-fundamentalist power-grabs all over the world, despite inconvenient developments like the underdog-against-evil-overlord Syrian independence struggle morphing into ISIS,  and allows them to frame the battle in Kashmir as one waged by an evil expansionist state against innocent citizens, and not one of a secular nation protecting itself from Talibanization/ISIS-ization.

Moving on.

A standard author-trick is to make an evil character say a number of statements. Once you discredit a large number of those statements later on in the narrative, the ones you don’t discredit explicitly become false by association.

Bharadwaj does this in Haider. Here is how.

Ashish Vidyarthi plays an Indian Army commander who, in a press conference, expounds on the policy of using terrorists to kill terrorists, or as it is known technically “Jaise lohe lohe ko kaatta hai” from the film Sholay, historically a strategy used to break the Naxals in Bengal and Khalistanis in Punjab. Since those familiar with the history of the state know this to be true, it is obvious that we are not in the realm of total fiction, we are talking “what actually happened” now. Ashish Vidyarthi then says that the Indian Army does not torture, it interrogates. The movie then demolishes that “lie”, showing multiple instances of inhuman torture on supposedly innocent Kashmiri folk. (As a matter of fact, the original torture sequences were more graphic it seems).

Then Vidyarthi says that the freedom struggle is an expansionist design of Pakistan. That the movie wants us to believe is the second “Indian lie”. In a subsequent plot point, another treacherous Indian agent calls Person X a Pakistani ISI agent, and since this treacherous Indian agent only lies and the said person is not shown to be a Pakistani, there we have another falsehood.

Two lies. Now comes the third statement.

The Kashmiri Pandit exodus. Vidyarthi throws it out there, and by association, that becomes the third “Indian lie”. Once again, this is very much part of the Kashmiri-struggle narrative, the fact that the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits is either false or grossly exaggerated or entirely voluntary, and that the mention of Kashmiri Pandits in any conversation on Kashmir is done with the express intent of discrediting the noble Azaadi fighters and bringing a kind of moral equivalence between them and the “Indians”.  Of course the fig-leaf used by the makers of the movie would be that it is to give the other side of the story, but that is absolute tommyrot, given that it comes from the mouth of the villain whose every other statement is a lie, and most importantly because, the film never once tries to tell the other side of the story in any serious way(and yes the closing dedication to the Army was so egregiously “for the censors” to be almost laugh out loud funny, like porn films that end with the message “Porn is bad”)

Again a film does not require balance, it can be as tunnel-visioned and as one-sided as it likes. It just needs to work as a film. Haider does. Most definitely.

But to sell it as the true story of the Kashmiri struggle requires some…what’s the word now?

Chutzpah.

[PS: My book Yatrik is now out. Here are details]

 

 

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64 thoughts on “Few Thoughts on Haider

  1. The situation the allegorical song “Bismil” portrays, was unintelligent beyond measure. It is the kind of set-up you would expect to see in a movie where Andy Balraj plays a villain. To me, it magnified the vacuous trappings of the plot and its stilted ambition.

  2. Hi Arnab. Why do you think the character of Ashish Vidhyarthi is evil? And about discrediting certain facts through his character. One can say he lies only once when he says the Army does not torture. Even a “good” Army general will not admit to Army torturing. So the audience will take that into account anyway. Hence the following two statements do not necessarily have to be lies.
    In my opinion the press conference along with the preceeding sequence describing history of Kashmir do a great job of putting forth all the sides of conflict in the Valley. What happens thereafter then is just one story.
    And what about the ending? Surely signifies the rejection of Pakistan overtues by Kashmir ?

  3. I agree with your thesis: you can make a one-sided film, but not while calling it a true story. I didn’t find Shahid Kapoor quite as compelling as you did; Tabu and Kay Kay Menon were good.
    As to AFSPA, there will always be abuses with such laws. But there truly is no alternative. Terrorism doesn’t bother with due process and the fight against it is anemic without locally enforced laws like AFSPA. We can do our best to review the cases and punish obvious instances of abuse. It’s a cop out, I admit.

  4. Terribly over rated film with Shahid being the main bummer, watched the film and somehow came away feeling cheated. If only the hero could have mad assed the villan (no names for people who have not yet seen) at the first instant instead of cavorting with the lady – the flick would be over in 10 mins.

    The only true depiction of Kashmir and its inherent contradictions and issues and the soul of the mess it has seen for so many years in my opinion was Maachis – rest was one sided jingoism or 15 min documentries streched to 3 hours like these. Irfan khan is wasted in a role and Shahid – the less said the better

    • Does not say it is a review. (I know the category is Review…because no other Category can be used). And the narrative is political, that kind of washes out the film. Given that, deconstructing the film cinematically, is not interesting for me.

      • I haven’t watched the movie – but your thoughts have a remarkable similarity with some of the Kashmiri Pandits to whom I have interacted. They are saying that the movie didn’t try to achieve any balance.

  5. Sorry and thats probably the reason i stick to commenting on blogs instead of writing one:-)

    I meant the depection of how youth get turned was the most realistic in Maachis – u are right. It was abt punjab

  6. TL;DR – If you watch it as an adaptation of Hamlet its superb and clever. If you expect it to be politically/historically accurate you will not enjoy it.

  7. Your review sounds biased and threads on the lines of Jingoism. Your thoughts on the matter :”The Kashmiri-fighters are innocent lambs who only fire when fired upon” shows indifference towards the plight of alienated Kashmiris. The kind of indifference when a lot of people say “Army and police did what they had to do to fight Khalistani Separatism “. It is as if the Indian Army can do no wrong and is exempt from any sort of criticism.

    When I watched the film, I was not expecting a History lesson on the last 50 years of Kashmir. I believe there are other filmmakers out there like Dibakar Banerjee or Kashyap who could perhaps make a movie on Pandits and their exodus (the state failed to protect them or rehabilitate them. This again is perhaps left extremist anti-state narrative). I believe in the mid 90s the anti-KP slogans had faded, as there were too few Pandits who still lived in the valley. But then again Bardwaj is a leftist .

    The end of the film is very Gandhian and that for me is one of the major takeaways from the film.

  8. “Kaul sahab to Jammu camp mein hain, na?”
    “Nahin nahin, woh to Bombay mein settle ho gaye hain”

    Pandits have moved on. Who else moves on to greener pastures and is a patent villain opposing his sister’s lover? Liaqat.

  9. Rare day I disagree with The Great Bong, having lurked here for years – but had to do it some day I guess. My take (this is a facebook status):

    Finally saw Haider. Yawn.
    It taught me that:
    1) Kashimiris can’t pronounce the word Chutzpah. It’s pronounced HUTZ-PA
    2) The Indian Army is quite badass – rocket launchers and all – and was fighting a difficult battle. Where is the anti-India sentiment in the movie?
    3) Hamlet sucks
    4) That rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead
    If I were a Kashmiri I would be offended. This pitiful movie does zero justice to your so-called freedom struggle. I had zero sympathy for everyone except the brother working in the MNC. I mean the poor guy had to work in Bangalore. As a Delhi-ite, I feel his pain.

    • ** I mean the poor guy had to work in Bangalore. As a Delhi-ite, I feel his pain.**

      Right..And what do you miss the most about DELHI? The rapes?

      • Yea coz Bangalore is so much safer – for people who speak Kannada, and don’t use ATMs, and don’t have to take autos. And it’s a very ‘laid back’ city, all the cars just love to hang out on the street, idling.

        The only difference between Delhi and the rest of the country is that in Delhi – they call it rape and report it as such. In the rest of India, there’s no such as non-consensual sex.

        P.S. You might want to turn on your humour detector. Other people did.

  10. nicely crafted but coldly unemotional. it took a mother blowing herself up (no idea why) to move the audience (didnt move me, but maybe a few others) ! I dont want to rewatch the movie but can someone confirm if any terrorist (aka freedom monger) was shown killing anybody. except in the firefight of course? The most peace loving freedom mongers of all times.
    and puhhleaase if u r going to use use chutzpah as a central theme – learn to pronounce it.

    • i think the bharadwaj used the word in the movie to make it sound closer to “chutiyaapa”,another word which hes pretty fond of.the use of chutzpah could have been replaced with “chutiyapa” so easily in that movie.

  11. Yeah right. As we all know, history began only in 1990. So we are supposed to ignore everything that had happened before that – 40+ years of Indian stonewalling, deceptions, reneging on promised plebiscite, rigged elections, propping up Sheikh Abdullah when he toes Indian line and arresting him when he doesn’t, the Gawkadal massacre, on and on. Note, in all those 40 years, demand for azaadi was very much there, but it had never taken violent form. The most extreme expression the kashmiris had given to it was cheering passionately against the Indian cricket team. And then, after 40 years of waiting for their freedom, some section of the youth get radicalized and we use that as an excuse to brutally suppress and oppress the entire population for another 25 years!

    • some section gets radicalized? do you even know what you saying ? do you even know what that “some section did in 1989-1990? Just because kashmiri pandits aren’t attention hoggers and don’t keep crying hai moji muduso dosen’t mean those days would melt away or diasppear from history. Or maybe you are one of those who believe in the Jagmohan theory ..that it was the design of Indian state to move Kashmiri pandits into safe havens so that the “innocent muslims” could be nuked .

      • Yes I know. Point is, to say Kashmir struggle is the “most radical Islamic movement” is to ignore the fact that for forty years, the movement had remained anything but that. The pandits had lived peacefully and no one had touched them despite the freedom movement always being on. All that India did in response to that nonviolent movement was to ignore their legitimate demand for self determination using all sorts of pretexts.
        And yes, after 1990, with outsiders coming in, things took an ugly turn. But consider this: 300 pandits were killed in the year 1990. 2000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat riots of 2002 in just a couple of days. Yet, no one blames the entire Gujarati Hindu population for those killings, do they? We didn’t see the army marching into Gujarat and converting the entire state into a vast prison, did we?

      • So first of 2000 _people_ died in Gujarat. Not 2000 Muslims. The number of Muslims is less. Further – is Gujarat asking for independence from India? No? Then what the hell is comparison even about?

      • Don’t waste your time.
        For this guy, systematic exodus of almost 3 lakh kashmiri Pandits is the same as riots in Gujarat, a knee-jerk reaction in response to Sabarmati Killings.
        And now he tries to claim victim-hood for all these radical pigs.
        Also for facts, in Guj. riots, 2000 people were killed, out of which 1200 were Muslims and 800 were Hindus.

    • “Some youth” did not suddenly get radicalized after 40 years. The religion of peace has been producing a disturbingly large number of “radicalized youth” for over a 1000 years.

      Nations of genocidal savages have always whined about their freedom and right to self-determination..

      The slave-holders of Georgia believed that they had a right to be left alone to buy and sell black people. Sherman disagreed and turned Atlanta into a giant torch…. The people of Danzig believed that they had a right to join the Nazis and create a greater Germany in which turning jews turned into soap was sanctioned by the law…. and we all know how the civilized world responded to that.

      and now, “radicalized Kashmiri youth” believe that they have a right to slaughter Pandit men and treat their women as the spoils of war. The Indian Government has responded by “disappearing” some of them. This response is, if anything, very mild, given the scale of their crime.

      • The question then is, why did the Indian govt deny them a plebiscite when they hadn’t shown any signs of radicalization for 40 years?
        And you say response has been mild given the magnitude of their crime. That’s why asked – has there been a remotely comparable response in Gujarat where the crime was order of magnitude higher?

      • And no, saying that we knew in advance pandits will be slaughtered if Kashmir becomes free, that’s why we didn’t allow a plebiscite doesn’t wash, because then we shouldn’t have allowed the creation of Pakistan either. There were (and still are) Hindus living in Pakistan too and it was the same religion of peace that operated in that country. If we could trust Pakistan to take care of Hindus, we could have trusted Kashmir to take care of pandits too. There is no principled justification of India’s stand of not allowing a plebiscite.

      • Mr XYZ, plebiscite was “verbally” offered by a PM who did a lot of other stupid stuff which India had to bear for decades to come.
        He did it for vote banks.
        Yet, he was smart enough to not sign any documents.

        Source of Below text:
        blog post:THE KASHMIR CONFLICT – CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL

        “””
        Kashmir cannot claim self-determination. Indians are NOT stupid. Kashmir’s accession is final and irrevocable as there is in law no such thing as a provisional accession.

        After the demographics of Kashmir have changed by Islamic terrorism , (Kashmir is now estimated to be 64% Muslim.), we are not stupid to hold a referendum now.

        Plebiscite could not be held at the right time, because of Pakistan’s non-cooperation. In 1953 elected members of the Jammu & Kashmir state assembly ratified Kashmir accession to India.

        India didn’t sign any binding agreement to hold a plebiscite. This UN resolution is not enforceable.

        Yes Nehru under Edwina’s influence may have verbally promised a plebiscite –but he also made hundreds of other verbal promises.

        So what’s the big deal ?

        The point is India didn’t sign any written agreement to hold plebiscite. Whereas Pakistan signed an agreement (Shimla) to resolve of all pending issues including Kashmir bilaterally.

        This agreement was signed after UN resolution. So Shimla agreement takes precedence over any UN resolution.

        End of story.
        “””

  12. One really has to wonder what it is about the spoilt brats living in Kashmiri-Occupied India that makes them bitch and moan like they do every little goddam thing.

    For the record – the entire Indian population has been suppressed and oppressed for most of India’s 66 years of its independence, not just Kashmiris so get over your bloody tantrums. Policemen have been disappearing Indian citizens forever, government officials have been raping women forever, and the Indian Army has had its way all over India. These people tend to have guns, and unlike you Kashmiris, somehow the rest of India learned not to throw stones at people guns. Idiots.

    So get over your moronic Kashmiryat as though there is some special thing about Kashmiris other than their ability to bitch and moan.

    Frankly, as an Indian, I am fed up with these bunch of toddlers, and I feel we should let the valley of Kashmir have its independence, with a clearly demarcated border, unlike the excrescence left to us by the British. Let them wallow in their new islamic state that will go the same way as Pakistan, Afghanistan. Let them enjoy it. Just make sure to put a minefield on the border so these stupid sulks dont’ dare infest or illegally occupy the rest of India with their complaining and crying if even half a suicide bomb goes off anywhere in India, nuke the damn valley.

    “Hey Indian State, leave Kashmir”.
    “Hey Indian Army is evil, don’t trust them”

    Okay, Indian state leaves and army backs off.

    FLOODING

    “Hey Indian state where are you, you aren’t taking care of us”
    “Hey Indian army why aren’t you rescuing us??”

    I wonder why.

    • I am glad you realized after just one comment that Kashmir should be given independence. Something the Indian govt hasn’t realized even after 67 years. Once you do that, Kashmiris don’t really care whether you protect your borders with mines or nuclear weapons.
      As for floods, if the Indian army had actually backed off and left, no one would have asked them why they aren’t doing anything about the floods. But as long as they are occupying the region, rescue work during crisis situations is the least they are expected to do. They aren’t doing any favor to anyone by doing what they are expected to do.

    • Oh “entire Indian population has been oppressed by Indian army”. Shows the level of ignorance about the situation in Kashmir. You think there is a soldier for every 10 citizens all over India? (In that case Indian army should have been 100 million strong).

    • Yup India needs freedom from Kashmir. The Abdullahs and Geelanis have forfeited the gift of Indian citizenship. Time to bite the bullet and finish this unfinished business of partition.

  13. This is when a bit of jingoism creeps into your otherwise balanced writing and you start playing to the galleries. The movie can be strictly viewed as an adaptation of Hamlet using Kashmir as a backdrop and maybe at times a plot device.It can also be viewed as a slice of life movie about Kashmir in the mid nineties. Maybe a slice you are not very comfortable with.Maybe there are many other slices which will tell a different story.There are no absolute truths when you talk of insurgent movements. Having grown up in Assam in the 90s, with the state-sponsored SULFA and the outlawed “secessionist” ULFA taking on each other till the last man standing, the one thing I can say with conviction is that the only true narrative in such times are the ones of the common man , the man who just wants to live another day . Haider is by no means your definitive guide to knowing what actually happened in Kashmir in the mid 90s. Did Vishal Bharadwaj claim it is? No. Does that mean it is propaganda? No again.Cinema is not meant to deliver you the truth. At times there is none.

  14. I for one did not understand why they have stretched the movie for so long. Irrfan khan could have been used in a better role, i was looking forward to see him more.If Bharadwaj had made a movie entirely about Kashmir without mingling it with hamlet i think he could have made a better movie. At the end Tabu explodes herself, I’m still unable to figure out why? If she wanted to protect her son then she should not have married the person her son thinks as the one who has killed his father. Getting married right after he finds out his father’s body was like pushing him towards a nervous breakdown. And she found a cure for that too, she exploded herself, the one person her son had left which was further the act of pushing him towards complete depression. That woman is not fit to be a mother.

    As for the portrayal of the situation of kashmir, it was not at all clear. It was imbalanced as you have said. When in the first scene Shahid was asked where you are from? He says Islamabad even if he knows that Army people will detain him, being a Kashmiri he ought to know that. Army cannot be blamed for being jumpy about a person’s whereabouts when he admits that he is from a place they consider as enemy territory.

    Rights and duties go hand in hand and the way Shahid behaved shows he wanted his rights only without doing all his duties. Maybe Bharadwaj has portrayed him as a symbol of typical Kashmiri behaviour.

  15. Shahid kapoor was studying in Aligarh University to become a poet. His life could have been so pleasant and quiet if only he had done what his mother had planned out for him. But he had a bent from adolescence towards becoming a terrorist by going to the other side of border. Did Bharadwaj meant to show Kashmiris that life for you in India will be glorious, comfortable and peaceful than in Pakistan?

  16. Pingback: Haider Review: Why Vishal Bharadwaj is a seditious repile - Page 2

  17. GreatBong , I go with the first part of movie. Bollywood movies may pretend anything but none claims to make anyone think. In college we joked one didnot need brain to watch these. In fact if one wanted to be entertained one must leave it behind. In a script writing book on movie making I remember reading decades ago ” If you cannot say what you want to say in 90 mins better keep shut. ” You know no Indian moviemaker ever yielded to the advice. They won’t keep shut or seem to have learnt to say.

  18. I simply cannot tolerate Vishal Bharadwaj’s Shakespeare adaptations. He is very talented but has a fetish for senseless violence. Bharadwaj uses the Shakespeare tag to sell his movies, fair enough but he creates such reprehensible protagonists and due to his talent can depict conflict and violence too accurately for me to care for another so-called “adaptation”. His talent renders them too realistically disturbing to entertain me.

  19. A blooper in the movie **Spoiler** – In the scene where Ghazala finds a gun in young Haider’s schoolbag, there is a photograph of Maradona on the wall. Now this photograph is from Fifa World cup 1994 (USA). Haider takes place in 1995 and so this flashback scene should at least date back to 1990. Hence, this photograph can’t exist at the time. 🙂

  20. Precise review of a blatantly partisan film probably funded by money sourced through D company. Is it time we realize that 90% of Bollywood is pushing the propaganda of our neighbors. Thank You for stating it as it is.

  21. Wonderful analysis. I had similar thoughts after watching Haider and some of it I even shared in my blog. After seeing only 4-5 star for the movie from everyone, it is heartening to see another point of view about the content of the movie which surely showed only one side of the movie like a separatists’ propaganda.

  22. Not sure what movie you saw, but the one I saw didn’t seem to show Ashish vidyarthi as villain. Haider himself does more ‘villainous’ things not to mention other protagonists like tabu or even her husband. The small point is that it is a one sided portrayal which is touching your raw nerves given your own bias, which comes out in the sweeping political commentary that you are using in a movie review. In our country, where there is no imminent danger of people losing their jingoistic feelings or of an end of one sided movies catering to those feelings; someone has shown the guts to show the one sided portrayal from the other side. It is admirable.

  23. Agree with the Blogger that the religious tone was muted (sadly). If it wasn’t,, Many of those who are gushing about the freedom of expression, would have been crying hoarse. But I didn’t feel that Ashish Vidyarthi or Army was shown as a villain. As someone said above, no force will admit they use torture. Even those killing the innocent ppl were shown as the police officer’s men not army.

  24. Awesome review ! great writing style. Surprisingly, Didn’t know anything about you. First ‘To do’ thing on my list is grabbing a copy of your book. Kudos !!

  25. Who is Haider for? The ‘Indian’ audiences. Will Indians appreciate the ‘problems’ of Kashmiris on basis of a few books or a films? Will our left liberals ever nuance out their arguments if a Kashmir Moslem centric narrative is balance with the Pandit genocide? Not at all think.

    I think why this film works well is that this is the first film which very much reflects the Kashmiri Moslem viewpoint. They want Azadi first, Pakistan chalega but never India. Now in that frame of view who cares about the Pundit genocide, the Indian state pouring tonnes of money and what not. In that Kashmiri viewpoint the aam Kashmiri is being crushed under machinations of the state and that is what this film portrays which no mainstream film has done.

    My relatives have done time in 90s at Kashmir as part of the Army. It was a harrowing time for the soldiers too. Will that get a film? Probably not. Will the Pandit genocide get a film? Probably not. This is a film made by a left liberal co-written by an avowed Kashmiri. Can we expect anything else?

    Finally the message of revenge begets revenge was put in well enough I thought. So all in all considering all this I rate this film very highly despite the obvious flaws you highlight.

  26. I am disappointed there are so few pro-Haider views (just around 5). Earlier GreatBong’s posts had great debates which were fun to read. Rediff / FP like debates with good english. kahan gaye woh din? I mean, kahan gaye achhe din? 😥

  27. Aao Na song in haider has message. The oldies are digging grave for themselves and taking the kids with them as well.

    The movie was produced by Vishal Bhardwaj & Siddharth Roy Kapur(MD of Disney India).

  28. Do us a favour, do not do any further reviews or “deconstruction” of any movie. Its beyond you. Even in your so-called review of Kai Po Che, many had commented on your undue focus on the Gujarat riots, which actually took up less than one-third of the movie.

    The director says that the movie is an adaptation of Hamlet. It seems it was not a part of your academic curriculum, so you missed reading it.

    • I completely agree with you Debasish. I think, in general, the blog is reaching its end with respect to its thought-provoking quality and sound analysis. I kind of expected the jingoistic sentiments in the comments to this movie, but I was shocked by the extreme ideas of greatbong. I tend to visit this site less and less every day. It has lost its balanced analysis and fresh logic. Greatbong tends to paint everything under the sun with his sweeping brushstrokes of Left or Right. Except his sense of humor which still makes you laugh, this site has lost it and like all good things it seems to slowly withering away.

      • Couldn’t agree more Dwaipayan. Had been a fan of his writing, so believe his comic sense is still there, somewhat. But frankly his almost unhinged endorsement of the loony brigade in almost every article, of late, have been very shocking. As you said, now we don’t get much insights, only rehashed propaganda. Sad.

  29. You very well captured what is wrong with the movie.
    The makers are hiding behind the mask of fiction and trying to make a political stand…hypocrisy!!
    No way can a politically motivated movie be called work of fiction.

    Vishal Bhardwaj is a talented filmmaker and I’m not doubting it.
    But what he delivered here will definitely fall in the category of sedition.

    This is similar to what our Media had been doing for years, showing Killing of Muslims in Gujarat riots without taking into the account the horrible Sabarmati Express Attack.
    In words of Alfred Tennyson —
    ‘A lie that is half-truth is the darkest of all lies.’

  30. Though a bit late in the day but nevertheless thought it fit to share this review of Haidar by a former soldier who was maimed in action. Recommended specially for those who found great instance of freedom of speech and artistic merit in the film:
    Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi’s take on ‘Haider’. Long but worth a read till last word
    From: VIJAY OBEROI
    A Soldier Reviews ‘Haider’ movie
    October 19, 2014 By Agniveer
    I am an ex-armyman. I was stationed in Kashmir in mid-nineties. This was the same period when hordes of militants from across the border infiltrated in Kashmir to spread terror. Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and scores of other terrorist groups were having a free-for-all rampage in Kashmir. They would infiltrate from Pakistan, recruit cadre, take them to Pakistan for training, bring them back and perform heinous acts of terror.
    This was the same period when half a million Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs were massacred and forced to flee the valley.
    This was the same period when Kashmir burnt under fundamentalism. It was next to impossible to differentiate between a peaceful nationalist and a killing-machine.
    Whenever a cricket match would happen between India and Pakistan, Pakistani flags would wave across the valley as if we were sitting in heart of Pakistan. Any minority voice who dared to wave the Indian flag would be silenced immediately by militants.
    It was during such a reign of terror, that Indian Army had to douse the fire in Kashmir with their own blood.
    If someone suffered most severe human-rights violation in history of mankind, it was the Indian Army in Kashmir. We left our families in different parts of India and survived under harshest of conditions. For days we would sleep over guns in harsh climate and remotest locations just to keep tab on infiltrating militants. Anyone of us could be bombed away in a sudden attack of fundamentalism. Innumerable among us lost our lives. I lost my hand like so many others who lost their limbs or eyes. To die in a bomb blast was considered lucky. Because if you chanced to be captured by the militants, you would be slowly and mercilessly tortured to death. Militants and their supporters took pride in this gruesome ‘halal’ ritual.
    Remember Saurabh Kalia? He is definitely not as popular as Vishal Bharadwaj or Shahid Kapoor. Because he was not a film star who made money by exploiting national interests. He was a humble Indian soldier who gave his life for motherland. He was captured by fundamentalists along with 5 more soldiers. They were taken across Line of Control and tortured as a religious ritual.
    Pakistan army tortured their prisoners by burning their bodies with cigarettes, piercing ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing eyes before removing them, breaking most of the teeth and bones, fracturing the skull, cutting the lips, chipping the nose, chopping off limbs and private organs of these soldiers besides inflicting all sorts of physical and mental tortures and finally shooting them dead after twenty-two days, as evidenced by the bullet wound to the temple.
    This made the killers “Ghazi” – who as per these fundamentalists gets highest number of most beautiful virgins in Heaven. All you need to do to be a Ghazi is to celebrate killing of a non-believer.
    These five soldiers were after all the worst of creatures in world in eyes of jihadis. They were Indians, soldiers and idol-worshippers. What could be greater sin!
    I was lucky because I could have been in Saurav’s place. Had I not lost my hand, instead of Saurav Kalia, I would have been ‘halal’ed to make someone Ghazi.
    This was the same period when Indian Army made greatest sacrifice to save India and humanity from reign of death and blood.
    And it is the same period around which the film “Haider” by Vishal Bharadwaj, Shahid Kapoor and anti-India jihadi writer Basharat Peer has been made and adored by “critics”.
    No struggle for liberation in Kashmir
    Everyone on ground knows that there is no struggle for liberation of Kashmiris in Kashmir. If that had been so, why native Kashmiri Pandits would have been massacred?
    You need to spend just a few days in the valley to understand the true nature of struggle that lies hidden under this garb of Kashmiriyat.
    It is simply a ploy to extend the reaches of Islamic fundamentalism. The same fundamentalism of Al-Qaeda and ISIS that is shaking the entire world.
    Kashmiri militants are brainwashed to believe that they will go to Paradise only after India is conquered by an army of Jihadis. Listen to speeches of Masood Azhar, founder of Jaish-e-Muhammad. He talks of Ghazwa-e-Hind prophecy where Prophet made conquest of India a precondition for opening doors of Heaven.
    In name of religion, the same poison is spread in minds of Kashmiri youth to make them militants.
    Enemy within and outside
    Yet Indian Army continues to face bullets from enemies and abuses from family. Today, on one side Pakistan is targeting Indian Army and minority locations in Kashmir with bullets. And around the same time, our own country-men create a film like “Haider” that paints Indian Army a villain.
    On one hand, flags of ISIS are waved in Kashmir, and at same time, “critics” laud anti-nationalism of Haider as marvel of art.
    Such co-incidences give ample evidence that somehow our enemies and certain elements from within our country consistently orchestrate great timing and coordination among each other that it is hard to believe that it was just a mere coincidence.
    In Army, we are trained to observe such remarkable coincidences, understand what goes behind, and yet silently sacrifice ourselves for the mission of nation.
    Haider shook me to core
    I have myself faced irrepairable loss in saving motherland from anti-national militants. And my fellow armymen have made much larger sacrifices for the same cause. Thus the film Haider shook me to core.
    It made me question for the first time – Whom are we fighting for? Whom are we defending? The same people who could make this film because of Army’s protection collude with an anti-national Jihadi writer to make a villain of Indian Army?
    Is this the reward of our sacrifices that we continue to make? Are commercial gains and so-called artistic expression more important than motherland and humanity?
    What if we had not fought terrorism by tooth and nail in nineties? What if we had not arrested the spread of terror to other parts of country through our own lives?
    With friends like this, who needs enemies?
    This is not a film-critics review. This is a review from perspective of an armyman, a lover of humanity and a son of India. A true secular who refuses to believe that God hates idol-worshippers so much that they will go to Hell. And aspires to fight against ideology that directly or indirectly nurtures such fundamentalist elements.
    This is not rhetoric in jingoism
    Unlike Haider, which is an experiment in fundamentalism, don’t consider the article to be a rhetoric in jingoism.
    Yes, I love my country. I love my country more than I love anything else in life. I love my country not because I was born here or I am a native of this nation. It is not because I love the design of the map of India. It is because its timeless cultural and philosophical heritage that is built on core foundations of tolerance, acceptance and justice. So jingoism has no place for a nationalist and son of soil.
    My nationalism does not make me aspire to conquer the whole world. It inspires me to enlighten the whole world. It inspires me to promote brotherhood across the globe and strive for “One World, One Family.” It inspires me to make India lighthouse of the world. I joined Indian Army not to conquer the world, but nurture and protect Peace that defines foundation of India.
    I am not a movie-watcher. My mission never allowed me the luxury to fit movies or serials in my priority-list. But I made an exception for Haider.
    Summary Review of Haider
    While I will provide details later, let me state upfront – I find “Haider” to be a shameless commercialization of anti-nationalism.
    No its not a rhetoric. This is the most “polite” way in which I can summarize the review of this film.
    The more “practical” review summary is already being demonstrated by my Indian Army by appropriate retaliation to Pakistani misadventure of cross-border firing. Salutes to my Army for this. Am proud to lose my arm for you. And regret that I could not gift my life for you.

  31. Kashmiri movement has essentially been about religion indeed. But of course this could not be shown in the movie simply because it would take away from the story and the characters in Haider. If you made haider’s father or Haider a religious bigot, the story and the motivations of the characters would not make sense. And about the politics of lefty liberals… you do realize that Kashmir valley has a population of ten million people ? Politics is not just about ideology but also vision. If Kashmir is to remain a part of India in a healthy way and not as a festering wound that it currently is, in the long run, you either have to get rid of those ten million people or make space for their point of view and them in our system. They have to be able to speak their mind in India even if we disagree with what they are saying. Btw, although most of the azadi brigade is religiously motivated, not all are. Some are motivated by the sheer romanticism of a freedom movement irrespective of whether it makes sense with regards to their relationship with present day India.

    I’ll quote here few lines from an article in Greater Kashmir newspaper “Capitalism in democratic societies no longer aims to annihilate the counter-ideologies but instead tries to own and fuse theses ideologies to its grand nationalist narrative through political recuperation. Haider simply allows the overlapping of discourse and counter discourse, therefore making the content redundant while at the same time retaining its form – that of a commercial product. Haider incorporates dissent into a mass culture of consumption, by pacifying the dissent into a fashionable commodity, to be sold and consumed. Haider in a sense is a clue to the oppressed by inviting them to commodify their dissent. War is, and has ultimately become, a commodity, to be sold from all sides.”

    You can clearly see from this excerpt and many other reviews that are floating on the internet that azadi brigade is not happy about Haider either. They fear that Indian democracy may hijack their narrative and make it ‘a commodity for consumption’. Don’t you think that means Haider is probably not such bad thing to have happened from an Indian perspective ?

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