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HAIDER - A worth watching gem in cinematic terms for sure but doesn't have that fine balance of art & entertainment as seen before in the thoughtful director's early hits. (Review By Bobby Sing)

05 Oct, 2014 | Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / H / Movie Reviews / 2014 Releases

By now you must have read several viewpoints about HAIDER receiving some extremely mixed responses from various sections of viewers as expected. Hence I would like to talk about this latest flick of a thinking director of our present times in a distinctive manner giving away the exact practical truth beginning with a personal sharing.
Almost two decades back when I entered the music business working with many renowned names of those times, I was completely into meaningful content led by Hindustani Classical, Ghazals or Qawwalies other than the popular Hindi film or Pop music. And the very first lesson I learned in the business was that whatever I liked personally is all that stuff which actually doesn’t sell in the market to keep the companies running. So we were only supposed to create anything which can sell in lakhs reaching the common man winning their hearts right away in the first listening itself instead of stressing on something which is not the general taste of the public to put it in simple words. Recalling the words of one of my experienced seniors, he used to say, “Listen to what YOU like after 7pm and make what THEY like in the day time to keep your job going”
Obviously I never supported this questionable commercial trend of making whatever crap is running in the market only to earn some quick bucks following a dumb mindset and therefore always insisted to find a middle path by adding something meaningful in every audio album (Pop music used to be the in-thing in those times of 90s) to enlighten the buying listeners. So in each project we worked upon (be it Hindi or Punjabi Pop), we always tried to add at least 1 or 2 meaningful, soul stirring tracks to maintain the balance treating our audience with respect too as some intelligent minds. And believe me most of the times, these one or two songs only used to become the underground hits in the music circles unknowingly, which strengthened my belief time after time that if served with the right balance, the audience is more than willing to accept some out of the trend, introspective content too with their open arms.
Coming back to our films, this balance was not to be found in the 70s and 80s when those brilliant attempts in the ‘art cinema wave’ were only seen by a particular section of viewers (repeatedly played on Doordarshan) and the strong majority of people not even knew about their names in particular. Yes an occasional ARDH SATYA did manage to break the set pattern becoming a box office earner out of the blue, but the above discussed balance was simply not existent in those times evidently.
However this was not the case, when I saw the first work of music composer Vishal Bhardwaj making his debut as a director with MAKDEE in 2002 and then MAQBOOL in 2003. Because these films had got that balance I always used to vouch for. The much required balance between the meaningful and commercial cinema reaching out to the common man serving the entertaining and insightful stuff together forcing him to both think and enjoy at the same time in an adorable appreciative style.
The Blue Umbrella (2005) not made for the commercial market kept the energetic flame burning and when the box office gave its verdict in favour of the sweet & sour treat OMKARA, I became further assured that this creative genius has certainly got a firm grip on that much desired balance between both the streams and thus had some great expectations from Vishal Bhardwaj’s future projects post OMKARA released in 2006.
But sadly this was only the point from where onwards the director in Vishal decided to move onto a quite dicey, avoidable path of getting lost in his deep self indulgence on the screen forgetting that fine balance displayed in his earlier films.
As a result, KAMINEY (2009) failed to extract the same unanimous positive response from the viewers and could only do above average business at the box office even after having two big stars and a major hit song in its soundtrack. Suddenly the reviews & viewers responses too were all divided when it came to KAMINEY and next the lost balance became clearly visible in his 7 KHOON MAAF (2011) & MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA (2013) falling flat at the box office, which even disappointed many die-hard fans of the director unexpectedly (including myself).
Here I must mention that despite few consecutive unsuccessful attempts by Vishal Bhardwaj in commercial terms, no one dared to write off the director knowing his rare and exceptional skills very rightly and everyone expected the veteran to bounce back with his next film tackling another unusual subject as his known forte.
And with HAIDER, Vishal does manage to answer his strong opponents with a sheer poetry on the screen in terms of narration, execution and performances. A film based on HAMLET which happens to be one of the most complex plays written by William Shakespeare tweaked with his own master strokes taking the storyline into the breathtaking Kashmir, successfully completing his Shakespeare Trilogy in a time span of a little more than a decade. A gem in cinematic terms for sure which forces you to forget his last two duds instantly. And a film which brings back the beautiful Tabu  on the silver screen after a long gap who truly is one of the finest actors of our times without any slightest of doubt.
Therefore it can easily be said that HAIDER scores much above the director’s recent attempts in comparison and breaks several grounds in visualizing a difficult subject on the screen like never before. But along with that another hard and blunt truth remains that the film fails to find that fine balance between meaningful and entertaining cinema as earlier cherished by we all in Vishal’s MAQBOOL or OMKARA. And thus is not able to surpass the first two parts of the trilogy in my personal opinion.
In other words, yes HAIDER is indeed a brilliant film made by the visionary director for a certain section of viewers, but not as brilliant as MAQBOOL and OMKARA which were unanimously acclaimed by viewers all over quite deservingly. The film has it superb well-conceived highs in its various sequences coming at regular intervals but at the same time has a few major lows too (in its second half) which eventually take the magic away leaving the general public confused and annoyed majorly because of an over-stretched too classy end with some strange theatrical additions.
To give you an exact idea, let me narrate how one feels while watching the film in theater. And this is as per the general public viewpoint and not as per any intellectual, spiritual thinker finding many deeper layers in the film just because it has been made by the renowned Vishal Bhardwaj.
Firstly, anyone opting for HAIDER is already prepared for a sensitive, slow-paced, artistic movie packed with some great performances and good music. So as the film begins the viewer doesn’t mind its slower pace and gets engrossed in its fine build up depicting the tense Kashmir and its ideology clashes. The sequence of a doctor helping the terrorists, getting spotted in a sudden Police track-down simply leaves you stunned looking at the realistic visualization. And then the solid introduction of every character in the storyline including Tabu, Kay Kay, Shahid, Shraddha & more keeps your interest alive for the next half an hour along with a haunting melody “Jhelum”, which sounds even more heart wrenching while watching it on the screen.
After some 50 minutes into the film, it starts becoming slower going into an uninteresting mode just before the entry of Irrfan Khan. And as soon as Irrfan burns the screen with his mysterious persona and an exciting background score playing a catchy baseline, it infuses a new energetic life into the film just before the intermission and one begins liking HAIDER in totality expecting a lot more to come in its second half.
Post intermission the well composed background music taken from the prelude of track “Aao Na” keeps the memento going. And the word ‘Betrayal’ gets a new meaning in Hindi cinema in the next 20-25 minutes of the film offering few highly emotional sequences beautifully portraying the trauma felt by Shahid as he gets to know the shocking secrets of his family.
Now till here the film is pretty balanced and manages to leave a great impact on the viewer through the excellence achieved in almost all its technical as well as performance department strongly led by the director’s vision, Tabu, Shahid and Irrfan Khan in particular providing an important support to the film.
But suddenly just when one expects HAIDER to progress towards an explosive climax there comes a badly timed song out of nowhere with the usual romantic bed room scenes at a place where the son only has vengeance written all over his mind, body and soul like a lunatic. The strange insertions continue as there is another dramatic song “Bismil” coming into the narration next which straight away reminds you of "Ek Haseena Thi” situation of film KARZ (also later used by Farah Khan in her OM SHANTI OM) where the hero tells the whole story of betrayal in a song and dance performance looking straight into the eyes of the culprit couple sitting in the front. In all possibilities one thinks that the film is soon going to end dramatically post this song with a great climax. But the situation gets worst when the song ends without any conclusion whatsoever and the film goes on and on towards a never ending climax for a good 20-25 minutes after that.
The extra length post the ‘Bismil’ song hampers the overall impact on the viewer pretty badly and the things simply go out of control when just before the worth watching climax there is another short song thrown in sung by the three old grave diggers in a pure theatrical mode quite weirdly. Now no doubt the song, the sequence and the lyrics have their own spiritual value if seen with a different viewpoint. Yet one doesn’t hear praises but laughter in the theater the moment one of the three old men starts singing “Aao Na”, clearly showing the imbalance in this latest venture of Vishal Bhardwaj which could have been easily maintained by some severe editing of the film, particularly in its final hour taking away all these over the top sequences not exactly meant to be there for the general public.
Moreover as it is said in film business, many artistic touches in a product actually takes it far away from the reach of a common man. And that’s exactly the case with HAIDER in its second half which surely could have reached the general audience in a more impressive manner had it been made with the same balance of Art and Entertainment, as witnessed in Vishal’s MAQBOOL and OMKARA almost a decade back.
Perhaps the director following the path of his own reputation of a visionary, thinking creator got carried away this time with a sort of self-indulgence on the screen forgetting that fine balance. Or may be taking two complex subjects together of HAMLET and KASHMIR in one film alone caused this major imbalance in the project due to the obvious reasons.
In any case moving on to the controversial concept of KASHMIR and portrayal of both sides in the valley getting some extreme reactions, I would like to say that HAIDER isn’t exactly about Kashmir or its core issue and just uses the backdrop to say its main storyline of betrayal. The film does showcase some brutal truths about both the people and the system fighting with each other since long, but at the same time it also doesn’t justify both the sides equally as objected by many sections of the society in their online protests.
So as I feel Vishal could have made his third Shakespeare adaptation in his own thoughtful style without moving into Kashmir touching the sensitive issue all together. But since the valley indeed gives the film a finer edge both in the Indian and the overseas market together so probably there was a business motive too behind this deliberate transportation of Shakespeare to the ‘Jannat’ as it seems. Also I strongly feel that may be the powerful visuals of red blood split over the white base seen in Tarantino’s latest DJANGO UNCHAINED gave birth to this idea of inserting Kashmir into Hamlet keeping in mind the director’s creative inspirations from the West.
Anyhow regarding the path-breaking depiction of KASHMIR issue in the film, one can only give the complete credit to Vishal and his execution (shouting at the maximum volume) if only he hasn’t seen three films in particular in the past. And these three films are :
Onir’s I AM (2010) (Second Storyplot)
Anurag Singh’s PUNJAB 1984 (Punjabi – 2014) &
Rahat Kazmi’s IDENTITY CARD (2014)
Giving the exact details,
If youwish to see a subtle but more real picture of Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits and their pain of flight from their homeland then watch I AM, in its second story of Juhi and Manisha.
If youare too impressed with the missing persons and Shahid searching for his father with a photograph scene in the film then do watch PUNJAB 1984 for this particular sequence dealt in a far better manner, since both Punjab and Kashmir have a similar history when it comes to missing persons of a family caused by the terrorism in the region.
And if you want to know more about military and their conflict with the human rights organizations depicted in a more balanced and realistic manner, hitting you quite hard in the climax of a not so perfect but relevant recent film, then watch IDENTITY CARD which probably was taken off from the theaters only 2-3 days after its release due to no takers and no known names in its star-cast.

Now in 8-9 out of 10 times, people praising HAIDER as something out of this world film must not have seen these three movies mentioned above in all probabilities. So I cannot blame them at all since they are bound to praise and get impressed if they havent seen anything like this before on the screen in a different rare (or regional) project.
But any serious movie-buff who has seen these three films listed above, simply knows that who has already done it in the past and in a much better manner too in terms of clarity and focus without taking any sides rightly. So if you also wish to have a much wider picture of the subject then do watch these three films at the earliest and then think again.
Lastly coming to the conclusion, as stated before, no doubt HAIDER is worth watching gem in cinematic terms for sure as being praised strongly. But at the same time it also doesn’t have that fine balance of art & entertainment as seen before in the maestro director's early hits of the last decade. The film has a class of its own but for a particular section of viewers alone and hence is going to witness some extreme divide over its worth becoming the major point of discussion all over.
Having said that I still would like to suggest that just ignore its major hiccups of the final hour and don’t treat it as a movie made on the KASHMIR issue wrongly like a docu-drama. And then watch HAIDER at least once for its performances, background score and superb execution of some worth watching sequences to cherish a different valuable experience in the theater which is now becoming rarer day by day due to this over commercialization of the business in the present times.
Arguably its not the best balanced work of director Vishal Bhardwaj racing ahead than his MAQBOOL and OMKARA. May be because the film is ‘A Revised Version’ as mentioned in its Censor Certificate, indicating towards some important cuts in its original form possibly ruining its actual impact as conceived by Vishal. But still it can easily be rated as a fine addition to his Shakespeare Trilogy much better than his last two forgettable ventures with a breathtaking cinematography capturing KASHMIR. The soundtrack of HAIDER again might not have a universal appealing value going against the composer’s past record but it does have that lyrical richness (by Gulzar) and the songs grow on you later once you have watched the film especially "Aao Na".
Putting in exact words, you must watch HAIDER for its towering performances led by TABU from the front, who strongly proves that even if she does only one film in five years, she still can teach a lot to all the new girls in the business giving them a tough competition. And I would certainly like to see her name in the top of every nomination list in the next year’s award category of Best Actress.
You need to watch the film for Shahid Kapoor as he gives his earnest performance till date (which I was honestly not expecting) explaining the entertaining meaning of ‘Chutzpah’ along with performing exceptionally in all his difficult scenes of facing a dilemma. It has a decent Shraddha Kapoor scoring well post intermission and once again a great act from the ever dependable Kay Kay Menon as the evil brother. Adding some comic relief to the film we have two hilarious characters played by a “Salman Khan look-alike duo” too successfully bringing in few lighter moments in the tensed progression through their enjoyable mimicry.
And finally HAIDER needs to be seen for Irrfan Khan’s grand entry (saving the film largely) and those 50 minutes in the mid from the moment he enters the screen before the intermission providing you the worth of your time and money spent along with an exciting well composed background score providing the thrills.
In all, you may find your own flaws in HAIDER coming in its second half as well as few objections in its Kashmir issue portrayal which could have been easily avoided, but you cannot ignore such rare attempt made in the present times and thus have to see it once to witness something extraordinary tried by Vishal Bhardwaj after a long gap.
However I only wish he could once again find that crucial balance between art and entertainment like he did in the beginning of his career as a director so that the film could win hearts all over without any rejections.
Rating : 3.5 / 5 (with a special mention of Tabu and its background score.)

Tags : Haider Review by Bobby Sing, Haider Film Review by Bobby Sing, Hindi Adaptation of Hamlet, Bobby Sing Bollywood Reviews, New Bollywood Movies Reviews, New Bollywood Movies Released, New Hindi Films Reviews, New Hindi Movies Reviews, New Hindi Movies Released, New Bollywood Reviews, Bobby Talks Cinema Review, Reviews By Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews at bobbytalkscinema.com, Inspired Movies
05 Oct 2014 / Comments ( 6 )

Sir, Bismil is not straight from karz or om shanti om. Karz scene may be inspired from Hamlet scene where Hamlet is confused with different version of stories, first weather his mom is seriously responsible for his father\'s death or ghost (ruh, role played by irrfan) is lieing. This play is the most crucial scene of hamlet to get out of the dilemma.

Bobby Sing

Dear Admirer,
HAIDER is being and will be watched by two set of audiences.
One who are the die hard followers of world cinema, rate them much above our movies or the Film Connoisseurs as they are called.
And second the majority who is the common man who goes to watch a HINDI film by spending his hard earned 200 bucks to get something good.

Now since I always try to write for the people giving them references of what they easily know, rather than bombarding them with more world cinema references of the masters, hence you will not find any reference of the subtle Oedipal tones, the following of Kieslowski and more in my reviews as that is already mentioned by many in those heavy reviews all over the web.

And for any simple Hindi movie buff who loves his own Bimal Da, Hrishi Da, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, Ghai and more veterans much above than the rest, the scene straight away reminds you of the said Ghai film instead of anything else.
Whereas its quite possible that Ghai also got it from the play in all possibilities, but a Hindi movie buff is least interested in that.

Moreover such films are bound to have a diverse opinions since they are delibrately not being made for the general public but for a specific section in a forceful way as I feel, which Vishal openly admitted in his latest interview too.

And whenever something is done forcefully in order to impress a particular section it loses the natural feel and you cannot relate to the sequences and the characters realistically as your own, which causes the major difference of opinion here.

I hope you would get my point too.


This is one of the best movie of 2014. Shahid kapoor has done total justice to the Character. A must watch Movie.

Bobby Sing

Yes Abhishek in cinematic terms and performance wise its indeed one of the best of 2014. And certainly the best till date for Shahid.

Keep Visiting and Writing in,

Hi Bobby

What a coincidence, bobby dear you have done exactly the same thing with your review (excess in length which leads to diluting the effect) which Vishal Bhardwaj had done with the movie.

Best Regards

Vikas Saitya
Bobby Sing

Hi Vikas,
In a lighter sense you can call it the director's influence.
But if you can look at the review again then its first 8-9 paras are about Vishal's career graph before HAIDER and then towards the end another part of the review is not about HAIDER but 3 other important films which 80-90% viewers must not have seen.

So in real terms the review is of the same usual length minus these additional inputs.

(Note : Do let me know how you like my first attempt as an author in DID YOU KNOW Vol.1)


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