Shahid Kapoor

Haider Review: Hamlet in Kashmir

Let’s get rid of the obvious to begin with. If you are here to know if you should consider watching Haider, releasing in cinemas on the 2nd October 2014, then here’s my comment. Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider might possibly be his best work yet, and is a must watch, not just for cinema enthusiasts or Bard-purists. It is also an essential watch for anyone who appreciates art, in any form – be it visual, aural, and I am sure if smell-sense tech was advanced enough, Bhardwaj would have made that available as well. He does come very close.

Haider, based on Shakespeare’s longest and most-adapted play Hamlet, is possibly the most tragic tale out of the Bard’s body of work. Romeo lost Juliet and vice-versa, Othello lost his wife, but poor Hamlet – that poor fellow lost his entire family, his loved one, and even his would-be in-laws. This potent tale of the Prince of Denmark set in the late 16th century finds a seamless transition into the 1995 world of Kashmir – a land amidst militancy and martial rule, torn between power heads exercising control. This Kashmir does not look familiar to Shammi Kapoor, or colourful Shikaras, or one where Kishore and Lata would sing – Kitni Khubsoorat Ye Tasveer Hai. Kashmir here has the gloom of loss, of half-widows and their dried tears, of frozen waters, dead cold snow, of curfews keeping life indoors, and of angry fires burning – literally and metaphorically.

Hamlet, here called Haider (Shahid Kapoor), has been summoned by the “disappearance” of his father, Dr. Hilal Meer, a respected Doctor of the community who on humanitarian grounds, operates on the leader of a militant group in his own house. The opening scene shows an elaborate miltary operation that ends up in the destruction of the Meer’s family home. Haider’s return to Kashmir is greeted by his burnt down house, and he then finds his mother Ghazala (Tabu), laughing at his uncle Khurram’s silly dance and song routine. Haider, still deep in mourning, is disgusted and torn between grief for his father, anger for his uncle, and longing for his mother.

Thus begins Haider’s quest to find his father, unravel the mystery behind the disappearance, and also answer the many questions that face him. It being a Shakespeare tale, there is enough scope of theatricality, but there is also the risk of alienating audiences by setting up a story that is politically relevant, and yet having the characters to be out-of-place by making them speak lyrical monologues. Bhardwaj strikes the perfect balance between the two. Haider was brought up in a “shaayraana” household, where both the father and mother sing Urdu ghazals and recite poetry. The many paralles between the source play and this adaptation are clearly present. And yet, Bharadwaj’s Haider is a beast of its own that comes alive not just in its deviations from the source, but also in the striking eyes of its stellar cast. And what a cast it has.

The leads – Shahid Kapoor is brilliant. There is no other way to put it. You can see how thirsty he has been for roles such as this. And perhaps, only Bhardwaj can tap his talent. Until now, Kaminey remains the peak of his acting career. Haider is undoubtedly a few planes above that in terms of performance. Through the span of the movie, Haider’s sorrow, misery, anger, frustration and rage of vengeance all come alive in the eyes of Shahid Kapoor. It is hard to believe that the same guy was seen prancing with Sonakshi Sinha on Gandi Baat. More of this please.

Kay Kay Menon’s Khurram is the Claudius of the tale. And no one knows how to play a slime-ball or an “aasteen ka saap” better than this polished actor. Menon’s perfect thick-Kashmiri accent and his treachery are just textbook performances. And it looks textbook, because the dude knows what needs to be done with what is arguably the meatiest role in the tale. And Menon runs with it, even at times convincing me to feel sympathetic for his sins.

I’ll save the best for the last – Tabu as Ghazala, mother Meer or Mauji of Haider, proves again why she is often referred to as the best talent we have in the Indian film industry. Her sensuousness defies her age, her tears cry out to you, and her sorrow aches your heart. Her last act brought me memories of seeing her in Gulzar’s Maachis, a similar story of a woman caught in desperate circumstances, striving to reconcile with life and finding release in the unspeakable.

The supporting acts – Familiar TV actos Narendra Jha as Dr.Hilal Meer, and Lalit Parimoo are both striking, even in their short appearances. Shraddha Kapoor’s portrayal of Ophelia is note-perfect. In her Arshia, we see the the love that Haider longs for. Veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda’s two lines are enough to echo in your head throughout the movie. And then there is Bhardwaj alumnus Irrfan. His appearance just before the interval is possibly the “show-stealing” entry scene that even lead heroes would envy and die for. Coupled with a electric bass guitar riff, a burnt eye, an evil walk, and a name called Roohdaar, Irrfan scorches the screen, even when Kashmir is drowned in snow. Not to forget, the comic relief provided by the two Salmans who cannot resist dropping a nod to “Salman of the 90’s” is pure chuckle-nectar. It sort of reminded me of Key and Peele’s appearance in the Fargo TV Series.10385367_10152668413883278_1398774271011645796_n

Speaking of snow and Kashmir, this review is not complete without singing praise of the DOP – Pankaj Kumar, who has painted this tale with a gloomy blue hue. Teamed with the action choreography scenes in snow, there is something poetic about seeing violence being unleashed on a white snow floor with crimson red blood splattered all over. Kumar sweeps through the Kashmir landscape, unveiling the chill in the wind, the warmth over a cup of Kahwah, and even capturing authentic visuals through his un-touristy lens.

Bhardwaj has also composed the music for the movie, and it is gorgeously woven into the narrative. As previously mentioned, the electric bass riff that announces Roohdar’s entry spreads its wings as the gravedigger’s song – and I believe that it will continue to haunt me and the audience long after the end credits have rolled. Then there is Sukhwinder’s Bismil – the musical play within Hamlet that has a life in itself. Perfectly choreographed, and some amazing rhymes written by the one and only Gulzar. It leaves me awestruck, and in some sort of a dilemma, whether I love Bhardwaj the director more than Bhardwaj the composer, or vice versa. Fortunately, I don’t have to choose.

Haider is an accomplishment. It is perhaps the most ambitious and lavish piece of work that has emerged from Indian cinema. Lavish not in terms of production value, or how many crores were spent on a certain costume. I mean lavish in terms of power packed performances commanding your attention. I mean lavish in terms of giving your gut a kick with every single frame that wraps a gamut of emotions. Bow down Mister! Bow down to the might of powerful cinema. Ab toh Aaao… Jaan Meri…

5 #Chutzpahs Out of 5

Haider plays in UK theaters from today.

Sujoy is a bonafide Bollywood fanatic, and loves good food, cinema, and sleep, in that order.

Follow him on twitter: @9e3k

Blog: http://OneKnightStands.Net

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Haider Press Conference

It might have been a rainy Tuesday morning after a bank holiday weekend but nothing was going to dampen spirits at the swanky London hotel where visionary director Vishal Bhardwaj and the dynamic Shahid Kapoor were in attendance to talk about their much anticipated next release Haider.

After showing those in attendance a sneak peek of the film (sorry, no spoilers here!), it was time to speak to Vishal and Shahid and find out what went into making one of Shakespeare’s most well-known and difficult plays into a Hindi film for a commercial audience.

Haider Press Conference

Excerpts below:

Why did you choose to adapt Hamlet for Hindi cinema?

Vishal Bhardwaj: Shakespeare has been my favourite because his dramas are so “juicy” – they have this conflict that is so universal that you can find those conflicts in any society because they are basic human conflicts.

So is Haider a faithful adaptation of Hamlet or a complete rewrite of the premise?

Vishal Bhardwaj: I always try to remain true to the spirit of the play rather than the text itself – that is what I also did in Omkara and I have also taken those liberties in Maqbool. In Haider, my ghost comes late, [whereas] in Hamlet, the play starts with the ghost so I have taken these kind of structural liberties but all those milestones which Hamlet is known for are there. But of course, it is a rewrite for me and I see it as completely my own work. It is very difficult to take Shakespeare’s burden off your head, especially when you are making a trilogy.

Shahid, the role of Haider is one of the most complex to play…Haider2

Shahid Kapoor: Especially when you are given contact lenses to wear and you are told you can only act with your eyes!

…so what were some of the challenges you faced in enacting this role?

Shahid Kapoor: One is usually used to doing movies which are largely single layered – it is very rare that you come across situations as an actor that are complex and I guess that’s where performance can actually come from. I just try to understand the character, his background, his mental state and just try and be honest with how that character would be feeling in that situation and I’ve pretty much played the whole role like that, I never tried to think of is this too many expressions, is this loud or is this not loud, I think those things are largely governed by the director.

This is your second film with Vishal – what is your working relationship like two films on?

Shahid Kapoor: I have a fantastic relationship with Vishal Sir – I think we had a really good relationship when we did Kaminey but now I think it has grown a lot, especially after this film, I felt very dependent on him, pretty much through the film, I would be very unconfident if I couldn’t see what his expression was after I had finished a shot, I felt the need for him and so, I depended a lot on him and if he seemed happy, I would feel like pretty much achieved what I needed to and we’re good.

 

It sounds like Vishal is quite the taskmaster!

Shahid Kapoor: He is very encouraging on set though and I’ve always felt that, a lot of people might feel because of the content that you view, that you must be feeling maybe he is really difficult, he pushes actors and does stuff but actually he provides you with a really good set of actors, really interesting new background and fresh content in terms of script, and all he does is encourage you on set. Actually, he has never been angry or upset with an actor – I’ve never seen him do that, which, you know, I guess is an amazing, amazing quality.

Haider3

Vishal, why did you choose to set the film in Kashmir?

Vishal Bhardwaj: I sincerely think that Bollywood has not been very sensitive towards Kashmir as [Kashmir] is the biggest human tragedy of modern Indian history. I had been reading about it a lot, I had been thinking about it a lot, that why have we not seen Kashmir from inside, why do we always have to go from outside. My eyes opened about what this region has gone through, this conflict and is still going through – that’s where I thought it would make the best backdrop for my film.

Haider completes a trilogy of Shakespeare’s tragedies that you have adapted for Hindi cinema (Omkara and Maqbool being the other two). What is next on the anvil?

Vishal Bhardwaj: Truly I want to make three comedies – a lot of serious stuff has happened for me so now I really want to get into comedies – there are so many. We [Shahid and Vishal] were talking about Comedy Of Errors

And Shahid, what will you take away from the experience of Haider?

Shahid Kapoor: What has lingered on is this feeling of why didn’t I do more films like this after Kaminey – that’s the one feeling I felt the most whilst shooting Haider. It was very enriching experience as an actor and when you do films like this, it reminds you of why you wanted to become an actor actually and then a lot of other things take over and I guess that holds true for any profession – we all get into something because at a certain age, there are certain things that attract you to a particular profession and then when you do it, there are rare opportunities where the things that you did it for are the things that you actually do it for. I really felt I should have done more films like this after Kaminey and I’m very clear that I want to do one such film every year for my journey as an actor.

Haider is set for a worldwide release on 2nd October 2014.

 

Bhushan Kumar is a film obsessed amateur fashionista who lives in London.

You can read more from him at www.bogeyno2.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @bogeyno2

Shahid Review at LIFF 2013

Everyone that listens to UPodcast knows that my tastes veer towards massy entertainers that have had some thought put into it. I don’t need added sound effects to punctuate punch lines but I cant’ stand slow, dreary movies that only get praise from other movie directors (usually friends) or snobby critics.

So when we received the line up of films at this year’s London Indian Film Festival, I naturally try to find the ones I have some connect with, be it an actor or director whose name sounds familiar or a story that would connect with me somehow.

Shahid was high on my list of movies to watch at this year’s LIFF as it starred Raj Kumar Yadav (now shortened to just Raj Kumar as the statute of limitations have surely expired on that foot fetishist from Pakeezah) who had the stand out performance as the lecherous pervert in Love, Sex Aur Dhoka as well as the goody goody in Kai Po Che. The other vague familiarity was that the movie was directed by Hansal Mehta (Does anyone own Woodstock Villa on Dvd except me?) and appreciated his short in Sanjay Gupta produced Dus Kahaniyan starring Jimmy Shergill.

 

Shahid is based on the story of Muslim human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi who (SPOILERS for Real LIFE) was shot dead in his own office after trying to defend people wrongfully incarcerated under terrorism charges in India.

 

One of the reasons I have yet to see Bhaag Milka Bhaag is that autobiographies in my book just have the same “inspirational” story arc and a movie about an interesting person, doesn’t necessarily make an interesting movie.

Shahid doesn’t avoid all “inspirational biography” trappings but gives the audience enough in Raj Kumar lead performance (who looks a bit like Shahid Kapoor’s more talented but less buff older brother) , it’s the tight screenplay and fiery courtroom scenes. The story starts with Shahid’s murder and then in flashback mode we jump in a linear fashion through the major chapters that lead him to his end.

 

After seeing the slaughter first hand in the ’92 Mumbai communal riots, Shahid tries to get some sense of vindication as wayward youths do by joining an Islamic Militant group in Kashmir but very soon he finds out that it’s not the right place for him as he doesn’t have any interest in the physical training or the stomach for beheadings (as one would). Unfortunately, when he finds his way back home, the Bombay police pick him up and he is sentenced under TADA (now defunct anti terrorism law) and ends up serving 7 years hard time.

In jail he picks up a law degree and wants to make sure he can do all he can to help people who suffered the same faith as him when he is released.

 

Shahid has some excellent supporting mostly unknown actors (his older brother (who was Imran Khan’s friend in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan), the female lawyer in his final case, his prison mentor) and quite surprising cameos by Kay Kay Menon (who almost pulls a Kosmo Kramer the way he appears in the movie) and Tigmanshu Dhulia (who in my mind will always be Romance Singh thank you Qtipya’s Gangs of WasseyPur Spoof).

 

It was also refreshing that Shahid isn’t mythologized and is shown with real human flaws and weaknesses without resorting to clichés. He is a weak man when it comes to his small family and avoids confrontation but when it comes to the fighting for his defendants he is on fire. His passion for his cause is undeniable in the courtroom scenes, which seem to be done quite realistically, so there are no “Dhai Kilo Ka Haath” monologues that illicit wolf whistles but illustrates the frustration of bureaucracy and process very well.

The movie is shot beautifully from the small alleys to the middle classes houses and offices in Mumbai to the majestic beautiful vistas of Kashmir.

 

Some of the editing can be jarring because of that some of the chronology can be confusing but these are minor issues with an overall satisfying movie without screaming it’s own importance.

 

Shahid has been picked up by UTV Films so will be getting a wide release. And for my money it was one of the best movies at the London Indian Film Festival that I saw this year.

 @asimburney

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Episode 1 Bollywood – Kaminey!

The Under Promise Over Deliver Podcast- a weekly dose of small ticket entertainment!

A podcast with 3 distinctly different voices:

Ahmed -PopCorn- K loves his blockbuster entertainers Michael Bay , animated movies and anything with big explosions

Party Marty C has a more discerning taste raning from Ingmar Bergman to a deep love of everything Bond related

And Asim hasnt come across many movies he hasn’t liked in his life: from Kurosawa, to the latest Bollywood movies. He has only walked out or turned off 2 movies EVER in his life.

 

The first ONE – Kaminey!

Welcome everyone and let’s get started!

So, for our UPOD casting first episode with Ahmed, Asim and Marty we will be kicking it with Kaminey!

You can always check out the Kaminey’s trailer!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh0yCd5z77A

 

But before we get into that, let me take you away from the movie scene and introduce you to a little something that we call the Underwhelming Trinity, each of us will talk to you guys about something new, forgotten about or simply something that is kick ass!

Are you ready to get underwhelmed!!

This week, Asim will be discussing an interesting point of view on laugh tracks in sitcoms and how much they annoy him!

Party Marty will be talking about some of the best absinthe-films of snowboarding around; check it out!

And last by not least, I will be talking about the new Nokia 4G concept prototypes!

You can always e-mail us at feedback@upodcasting.com or on Ahmed, Asim or Martin’s mail. Join us next week for a brands new episode and an underwhelming experience!

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