An on-time - and altogether unusual-for-this-blog - movie post. No one kill me, please *wink*
Nope, not Rahul, not yet. Still Ritwika here. I am back – for one last score :P
Now, in all seriousness, the last post was pretty much all of the science I had up my sleeve. So, today, I am just going to talk about, um, whatever comes to my mind. And I have decided that a lecture on en dashes and em dashes would be boring and long-winded, and would not serve much of a purpose.
(Poruri probably will not like this, but I am going to go ahead and write about Haider, the final instalment of Vishal Bharadwaj’s Shakespearean trilogy. So, here we go.)
Before jumping into the flood of words and thoughts and emotions that this is going to be, some things need to be said. My usual fare in movies is either the light-hearted rom-com or the superbly done thriller, with a healthy dose of action thrown in, or even the superhero movie – not for me, the subtle drama or the tempestuous tragedy. To put it simply, I am no movie critic, and I definitely am not the intellectual movie-goer – I reserve my intellect for books; movies are my stress-busters.
But somehow, I seem to have broken my own rules with Haider, and well, this is the result. And I am putting these words down here, even though this is, in no way, a coherent, studied review – this is a torrent of emotions and adulation and adoration and pure, simple fangirling.
Now, where do I start?
Right, the language. Hindi, with a very, very generous helping of Urdu. As you sit down and watch the story unfold, the words fall into your ears, gently, like a steady drizzle of rainbows, words like sharminda and inteqaam and other beautiful forms crafted in sound that my South Indian ears couldn’t quite catch. Words wrapped in reverence and emotion, so much so that even with my phenomenal ignorance when it comes to Hindi (not to mention Urdu), I could feel the mesmerising river of emotion that carries the story forward. Words so sparse and raw and densely poetic, that the beauty of the sounds pierced something inside me.
This is a movie that relies on dialogue, on the cadences and lulls born from the dance of language and emotions, and takes flight through voices. There is a terrible sort of poetry here, something that pulls and tears and guts and creates, all at the same time, and it is lovely; it is something that you will fall in love with.
And, as the words suck you in, you also start to notice the way colours dance in and out of the frame, the way the visuals tease you with the fragile beauty of Kashmir. Everything about its broken history is here, in the blue upholstery of chairs that has golden swirls of leaves on it, in the flashes of colour against the starkness of the snow, in the montage of brown and white and colourless water. There is desolation and hopelessness and hope in every frame, and a savagery that is beautifully sketched out in drops of scattered blood on the otherwise pristine snow.
Then there is the music – it embodies the tension that is always present, in every frame, every breath, every word spoken. It is eloquent, evocative and complementary, and manages to capture the soul of the story. It waxes and wanes, it talks about love and laughter that suddenly twists in on itself to emerge as heartbreak and ugly revenge, and it talks about helplessness and choices. And it makes you think, even hours after you have walked out of the theatre.
Along with the music flows Jhelum, the river that is almost a person in its own right. It is an omnipresent witness, and it meanders away in a silence that seems to know everything. It is never forgotten, and is woven seamlessly into the tapestry that is Haider.
But, perhaps most importantly, there is Shahid and Tabu, delivering performances that steal your breath and knock you down. While Shahid convincingly, beautifully goes from the adorable man-boy who is stricken with grief at the demolition of his family to the grief-ravaged and revenge-driven man who laughs and cries and rages and clings to thin flakes of sanity, Tabu is magnificent as mother, woman, wife, lover and human being.
In a way, I think Haider is a misnomer – because it is not Haider’s story; it is the story of his mother, for it is with her that Haider begins and ends. There are moments when you want to call Ghazala a whore, and there are others when you want to worship her. But always, always¸ she is the trigger, she is the prize, she is the axis around which everything else revolves, and she is the instigator – albeit inadvertently – of this magnificent tragedy.
There are no blacks and whites in this story – everybody is grey, everybody betrays and is betrayed, everybody has a dark side, and everybody is right and wrong. Haider forces one to re-evaluate the concept of rigid tenets of morality, and makes one wonder whether it is true that everything has a price. There is symmetry here, and there is a fantastic sense of irony – the subtle and the glaring – that haunts you. It is there when you realise that the same mother who managed to prise the gun from her son’s hands manages to – albeit indirectly – put it back there. And it is there when you see that, somehow, you cannot make yourselves call Haider a murderer, because everything that he does is believable, and because of that, terrible in the sheer power of empathy it generates.
There is more from where this came, unformed thoughts about the brilliance with which Bharadwaj has woven the Oedipus complex into the narrative, subtly, like a dream, the fantastic choice of Kashmir as a backdrop to this story, an absolute lack of words for how magnificent the ensemble cast is, most especially Kay Kay Menon and Irrfan Khan, wordless adulation for Basharat Peer, one half of the script-writing duo, and so, so much more. But I will end with this – Haider is, by no means, an easy watch, but it is one of those things that need to be watched, and thought of. It will break your heart and you might shed a tear or a thousand, but it is as perfect a harmony as art and commerce can achieve, and it deserves to be seen.
I will get out now, and you will meet Poruri tomorrow.
Sayonara (Yes, I have a thing for other-language goodbyes. And smileys :D). Till the next time (Read: Poruri, I promise that I will not de-sanctify the science blog again. Get out of town and lemme write again :D)