I’ve been trying to reconstruct the story of Haider almost the entire afternoon. And, I feel that I have forgotten a lot of what happened on screen. However, the gloom remains, it does not leave you even hours after the credits disappear.
An image of Irrfan Khan in a white coat spotting black goggles/safetynglasses walking down that bridge, remains. In him, Bhardwaj plays out the ghost… the rooh, literally, the catalyst who triggers the action post intermission. I loved the concept, a ghost informer and the way khan executed the role.
Chutzpah stands out. so does AFSPA. Shahid Kapoor in the role of the chutzpah, the escaped Irrfan Khan in the role of the chutzpah. Haider completely transforms into one starting with his monologue or was he always a chutzpah or/and a chutzpah in the making….The transistor he carries with him in the scene is very similar to the one Aamir Khan holds in the PK poster. Soon after there is the wedding. Haider adorns a headgear for it, a headgear of a bird, does that plumage indicate a bulbul? The bulbul, the army operation proposed by the army cheif (?)character played by Aashish Vidyarthi, to kill whoever they think is and on the side of the millitants? bulbul could be the symbol. afspa. synecdoche.
Haider nodding his head with the gear is classic. It brings out how badly he does not want this wedding to take place. The punch in haider comes in subtle lines, such as when tabu recounts a childhood practice, and haider interjects “so what should I do when my uncle touches you in the absence of my father” the moment is there, and then the moment in not there.
The colours remain as a memory. They also narrate a story. In the background of the white snow, sometimes the dirty white snow, the white of the snow is stained by the red of the human blood: army blood, police blood, militant blood, a son’s blood. The red maruti car of Haider’s girlfriend, Arshia (shraddha kapoor) the red muffler she knit for a police officer father Lalit Parimoo, the white maruti used by Irrfan khan… the colourful shawls worn by Tabu.. the black of the goggles …. the autumn season with its yellow hues.
Tabu in a green shawl/attire with black goggles alongside Kay Kay who also wears black goggles is classic. Throughout the film, the one character who undergoes change in outfit is Kay Kay, from his younger, no beard days face to a man who looks in control of his estate and is powerful at the wedding and after. That tranformation is tangible.
The film has followed the Hamlet Acts. The film has its actors, its ingredients right, however, the story never pulls through, a tragedy has to have a tragic flaw, this could be it. It is not about its pace nor its length, it is about retaining an interest in the audience for what’s to come. However, at the same time, nobody will touch the popcorn or sip into their coffees and cokes during the film. Still, the film lacks something, I think it lacks that binding agent that brings it all together, and a satisfaction of a cathartic kind!
The creation of the gloom with the landscape, background score and music is to be noted. Is this film an experimentation to sustain such an effect post the movie watching.
The film is about the clash of perspectives. Tabu as a wife feels neglected by her doctor husband, she is drawn towards his brother, the lawyer. However, as an audience we will feel a warmth in the doctor-tabu relationship. During the course of the film, Haider tells his mother about trying to look from somebody else’s perspective.
perspective makes an entrance when the doctor says he stands for zindagi in the beginning of the film, that is how he negotiates what he does as a doctor…. perspective peeps in when tabu is unsure on whose side her son and husband are on, perspective makes a grand entry when Haider tells a (South Indian)* army officer, that he is going to Islamabad. Perspective brings the army the power to kill in the name of protection. Perspective that creates rebels out of innocent people who were captured and tortured by the army. Perspective of being a half widow. In the film, perspective begins with a doctor who stands for zindagi but his perspective changes when he realizes what has been done to him, he wants his son to take revenge.
What the film successfully brings out is how people live under army rule, torn apart by feelings of whom to be, whom to support, who they are, whose gain. The everyday experiences of staying in fear is writ large in the film. That scene when a man stands outside the threshold of his house for hours and his mother does not know why, until irrfan khan comes along and calls it a psychological disorder.
The way Irrfan Khan handles that boy, does a mock check and frisk, brings home some cruel ground realities.
It is also about how a person musters courage to have an audacity and a conviction. Circumstances. In Haider’s case, he comes back to a burnt down house, his home of memories of his life with his parents, a home he did not want to leave, but was forced to leave on account of blackmail from his mother. Tabu’s conviction. Haider’s conviction. The police chief’s conviction. Tabu seems to hold the reigns to the narration. it is her character’s insecurity that drives her to be her son’s blackmailer and her lover’s informant, her husband’s whistle blower. At the end of it all, I feel no remorse for neither haider, nor his mother or his father or anybody as such. Nevertheless, I carry the gloominess back home. If this was an exercise in mood building it worked.
*this thing about south indians into bollywood, I’m not sure I understand. The army officer in Haider, his name is nagaraj, has an accent as well. The commissioner of police, Delhi in Mardaani, the kerala saris worn by the hockey players in chak de! India.