Haider (2014) *HQ*

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Set in Srinagar grappling with turbulence in circa 1995, the movie opens with a surgeon, Dr Hilaal Meer (Haider’s father played by Narendra Jha), trying to save the life of a militant, bringing the insurgent home to operate on him in spite of his wife Ghazala’s (Haider’s mother played by Tabu) apprehension. His reason being his loyalty to the Hippocratic Oath more than cast or religion or any specific country. Getting tipped off by a mole, the army busts the doctor’s secret, cracks down on his house, kills the militants and arrests Hilaal, transferring him to an army camp making him join the milieu of the many disappeared civilians of the state.

Which brings us to Haider’s (Shahid Kapoor) entry, who arrives in Srinagar from Aligarh, gets into trouble at the border with the army for not sticking to rhetoric only to be salvaged by his journalist girlfriend Arshiya (Shraddha Kapoor). After visiting the ruins of his father’s home, Haider goes to his uncle Khurram’s (Kay Kay Menon) house only to find his mother romancing her brother-in-law instead of mourning his father’s disappearance. Riled up by the unjustified show of affection, Haider storms out of the house, goes berserk going from pillar to post in search of his dad but to no avail.

Enter Roohdaar (or the infamous Ghost from Bard’s original, played hauntingly by actor Irrfan Khan), an ex-ISI agent turned militant who claims that he was in the same cell as Hilaal in an army camp, and that Haider’s uncle, who eventually becomes a local minister, is the reason that his father is dead. Though one can smell a rat, given the insurgents’ anti-government agendas, Roohdaar insists that Hilaal wanted Haider to avenge his death by murdering Khurram.

In the throes of rage driven insanity after learning this, Haider is found by his mother and his uncle on the streets, who bring him home, cremate Hilaal and decide to marry each other the very next day. Although masked under the garb of humour, Haider’s vindictive disgust makes him make up his mind about avenging his father’s death, which he shares with Arshiya who out of concern tells her army officer dad, Pervez, who orchestrates Haider’s arrest and murder at the hands of his two best friends.

Luckily Haider escapes, takes shelter in a insurgent-run graveyard only to get busted after he fights Pervez’s son Liaquat who visits the graveyard to cremate his sister, Arshiya, after she commits suicide. Though Liaquat dies while duelling Haider, the army is intimated, and led by Khurram, troops arrive to take Haider and other militants down.

What follows is a blood bath. Gravely injured, Haider is called out by his mother Ghazala, who arrives to persuade him to surrender only to fail but not without knocking it in his head that vengeance only gives way to vengeance, not freedom or peace.

She, realising Haider’s resolve and indignation of her, pulls the plug of the bomb laden vest she secretly comes wearing, killing herself and seriously injuring Khurram in the process. Finding his chance to finally shoot Khurram the way his father desired, Haider goes with what his mother told him and leaves the man alive, perhaps knowing that he’d die an insufferable death anyway.

With scintillating performances by almost all the actors and music which can give you goosebumps, Vishal Bhadwaj has literally created magic on screen. Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Irrfan Khan as well as Narendra Jha have delivered scintillating performances, which keep you hooked to the plot from the word go.

Also we’d like to put in a word for cinematographer Pankaj Kumar whose photography makes one fall in love with Kashmir, no matter how grim the situation looks.

Missing it will not be the best decision of your life.

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