Haider: To be or not be

Mir Liyakat


Haider is one of the first ever Bollywood movie that attempted to stage the Shakespeare’s revenge play Hamlet on the recurring Kashmir tragedy. It is meant for an audience whom in the name of national interest were always entertained and enthralled over the grievances and miseries of victims. Most revenge tragedies of Shakespeare share some basic elements: a play within a play, mad scenes, a vengeful ghost, gory scenes, and, most importantly, the hero of play has a serious grievance against a formidable opponent.

Vishal Bhardwaj and his creative team first time successfully adapted a Shakespearian tragedy Hamlet into a Hindi movie following all the classical elements and the brass tacks of Kashmir conflict in the history of Indian cinema. In the name of commercial entertainment, fanatic patriotism, war hysteria and jingoism is consistently stirred to keep the Kashmir pot boiling. The Indian cinema always romanticizes and glamorizes cooked up scripts as for as the grim and gory reality of Kashmir imbroglio is concerned. Haider, we can pronounce to some extent is a first ever paradigm shift of the mainstream cinema to shoot creatively and artistically the internal tragedies and conflicts that have blown away the peace and harmony in Kashmir.

This is not the first time Vishal Bhardwaj was dealing with the fusion of art and cinema in fact he has produced a series of movies with huge success and appreciation from the all sections of society. Therefore his newly released movie Haider may break a new ground and challenge the narratives of mainstream media and their concocted myths regarding Kashmir.

In the thick of irrational controversies both online and offline the movie Haider was finally released and is successfully running in all theatres across the India. The day one after its release Haider somehow succeeded to strike a chord in the introspective intellectuality, and created catharsis in the theaters and left the Indian youngistan speechless.

First time any Indian movie has valiantly did a comparative study between the Hamlet’s rotten state of Denmark with the Haider’s rotten state of Kashmir where forceful desolation is called peace and order. The Shakespeare’s Hamlet was from Denmark but Vishal’s Haider is a Kashmiri who returns home from the Aligarh after his father mysteriously disappears in the custody of security forces. He is neither affiliated with any group nor has any political positions but just being a doctor and the representative of ‘life’ becomes the subject of torture and tragedy between the clashes of epic proportion. The circumstances unfolding encompassing the protagonist Haider to take the matters into his own hands and seek revenge privately, after justice have failed him in the public and power corridors of Kashmir.

The movie Haider is not only intended to the outside world but it also shows mirror to the people of tragic land where we still have the bumper crop of Rosencrantz and Guilderston always waiting in the wings to bleed their own people. The Claudius like diabolical characters in the play are still roaming freely in the disguise of politicians and civil servants and playing the game of Chutzpah with the emotions of people. This game of Chutzpah is equated in the movie with the AFSPA; another killer game responsible for the horrible human rights violation in the valley. The speech of Haider at the historic place Lal Chowk is worth watching because it’s the same place where promises and pledges were made with the hapless people but the cunning politics and betrayal has put the lives of ten million people on the perpetual ambers of fire.

The famous line of Haider’s monologue ‘Hum hain ki hum nahin To be or not to be–is in reality a metaphor. ‘Is it more noble to just endure and suffer life and be passive in the face of this sadness and suffering or (is it more noble) to actively look to end that suffering?’ It’s interesting here to note and in fact a bitter fact that both the arch rivals of sub continent that claim Kashmir as their ‘jugular vein’ and the ‘integral part’ were never worried about the miseries of the people living in this beautiful jail. Even their tragedies are seen as an opportunity to score diplomatic points which we recently witness in the floods when the whole valley was under the siege of Jehlum and people were left at the mercy of god.

Haider, the protagonist delves deep into the interior monologue of grief, misery and tragic events because of his father’s disappearance and mother’s hasty second marriage with his uncle. But it looks all metaphorical here in the second part of movie because after turning the annals of Kashmir political history. We come to know that how our leaders disappeared from the stage when we needed them most to take bold decisions and how our old custodians like Mahraja and the great Sheikh married with a country so hurriedly and impetuously. In the movie you will find Haider a complex and subtle, and his dialogues full of irony, paradox and cold shrewdness.

The past B Town movies which revolved around the Kashmir theme were just aimed to fume and fane hyper nationalism but the movie Haider at least depicted the somber and sordid picture of 1995 Kashmir in a plain mainstream narrative. The literary endeavor of Vishal Bhardwaj and Basharat Peer is simply daring, thought provoking, innovative, and marvelous. But pity thy nation where speaking true and just showing a trailer of reality faces a robust boycott campaign on the social media and protests on the street to ban and boycott the movie which at least encourages people to contemplate in solitude. The designs and the agenda of these elements is crystal and clear to mislead and refrain the common people of India from the reality vibes befalling in the Kashmir. But will this time the young India, civil society and intelligentsia listen their rhetoric’s is very interesting to see?


  1. The movie was good and showed the Kashmiri perspective in the sense that every pro-Indian character was shown as villainous. Your review just like the movie blames India and Pakistan for all the trouble of Kashmir. An Indian has finally made a movie from a Kashmiri perspective criticizing India. But when will we see Kashmiris acknowledging their mistakes ? When will we see the azadi brigade admitting the crimes their fellow comrades committed in the name of the freedom struggle ? Pakistan may have supplied the guns, but Kashmiris pulled the trigger. India may have ransacked Kashmir but Kashmiris started the communal blood bath. So, please stop blaming India and Pakistan for this misery and take some responsibility. When you point one finger at the other, three point back at you.


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