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How red was my valley

How red was my valley
Shakespeare played it right, Vishal Bharadwaj plays it half right. He shows the grave diggers armed with guns and stunning clarity while he makes Ros and Guil horrible, forgettable caricatures that I have to rue over for a day to forgive him for. but they are actors - they are the opposite of people!

It would be fair to say Haider is more about Kashmir than it is about...well...Haider. The movie is a grim, blood laced view of the valley that the celluloid has often glossed over. Bharadwaj points it out, the graves, the bullet-ridden dead, the curfew, the clash of the insurgents and the army - sarhad ke iss paar aur uss paar and the disappear-ed lot.

Before we get into the movie it would be fair to remind everyone that the pace of Hamlet the play is slower than that of Macbeth and Othello (the other two movies Bharadwaj adapted), therefore comparing these three is not entirely fair. However, this notwithstanding, the movie lumbers on, like walking through snow, and gains momentum only after the interval. All the action lies on the other side, even the ghost of Hamlet/Haider’s dead father. It is slow, it drags and then it picks up speed and hurtles towards an explosion (literally) and lot of blood and body parts.

Haider (Shahid Kapoor) returns to Kashmir from Aligarh to find out that his father Hilal (Narendra Jha) has disappear-ed, his house reduced to a ashen ruin and his mother Ghazala (Tabu) has found solace in his uncle Khurram’s (Kay Kay Menon) arms and house. Haider searches for his father dragging Arshiya (Shraddha Kapoor) along, while Bharadwaj manages to stick to the first alphabet logic for all others characters - he leaves out Ophelia, Ros and Guil). The girl is a journalist and has a policeman as a father - the two parties Haider has on his side for as long as he can play it sane.

Haider’s father’s ghost never really appears, instead in comes Roohdar (Irrfan Khan) who opens Haider up to the truth and lets natural progression take its course.  Bharadwaj doesn’t alter the plot, he of course changes the ways to the end as bullets and grenades replace daggers and swords. He lets Kashmir flow in and form the snow-laden base of Haider.

Haider becomes what he is because of Kashmir, had the story been set elsewhere, it would have lost its poignancy and relevance. It would be well justified to say that Bharadwaj adds more meat to Hamlet by letting Kashmir in.

One of the most incredible scenes is when a man (played by Bashrat Peer, the other scriptwriter, in a cameo) stands for hours in front of the entrance to his house, almost in a trance, unable to go in. He gets briskly searched by Roohdar, shows his ID dutifully and only then does he walk in; Roohdar jokes that the army have the civilians so used to checks that the basic freedom of being able to walk without being questioned is unnatural to most. Constant checks, surveillances, curfew warnings and crackdowns in the morning that merge with the call for azaan are the different faces of Kashmir. Chutzpah, Haider uses the word giving it a meaning of its own. Mind-Chutzpah-ed. Do you get it now? Shahid steals the show while Tabu plays Ghazala with a sense of practiced ease. She has done it so many times before - remember Maqbool? The oedipal complex is brought out very effectively by the two actors. They handle it maturely and cleanly, not allowing it to descend to the crass. The credit goes to the script writers Bharadwaj and Peer.

Kay Kay Menon falls a little flat as Khurram, he could have padded up the complex character further still. Shraddha does justice to Ophelia - pretty and forgetful, but her descent into madness needed more from her to be able to convince effectively. Her last scenes are shot well, but as an actor she adds little to them. And Irrfan Khan, a rockstar’s entry and an equally deft role played so well. 

So Jao stands out as one of the best shot songs in the movie, trumping Khul Kabhi by a good mile and gets beaten only by Bismil in impact and style. Keep the patience and sit through this one. You don’t want to miss it!
Jhinuk Sen

Jhinuk Sen

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