Haider, even by Vishal Bhardwaj’s incredibly high standards is a master piece. In a topic that is extremely touchy in India, Bhardwaj manages to present an extremely balanced view of the ground situation. The delightful interplay of the various characters is riveting and the intensity never lets up always keeping the viewer on edge. At the same time it raises uncomfortable questions for the all the stakeholders concerned: the Indian army, plight of the Kashmiris and the Pakistani agenda.
The most credible part of the film is that does justice to both Indian army and the Kashmiris and does not take any sides.
The film’s dark shades are present throughout the film and convey the gravity through subtle nuances. Even, the scenes with laughter in them, always serve to convey something serious than to provide moments of comic relief.
The epic monologue of Shahid “Hum hain ki hum nahin” beautifully puts across the existential crisis faced by the everyday Kashmiris. Caught between Pakistan and India, they are ones who lose everything.
The opening scene itself is hard hitting and the “crackdown” shows how the ordinary lives are disrupted at will due to the volatile situation on ground. The loss of 3 soldiers forces the commander to destroy the entire house instead of sending in reinforcements to capture the terrorist. Lives are torn apart and the memories are destroyed at the switch of a trigger.
After this scene, the Pakistani agenda, which is recruiting the disillusioned youth and the people suffering from the collateral damage (in this case Shahid mourning the loss of his father) is brought out in a vivid manner. How the normal youth with lack of jobs, with lack of security and loss of their loved ones can be turned to seek “intekaam” or revenge is brought out in a tragic beauty.
The scene where Maulana tries to send Shahid to see “other” side of India, is a painful scene. That a state which has been a part of India since Independence has to go out of it to see “other” India says a lot.
Finally, one of the most touchy of points AFSPA or word that rhymes with chutzpah (as shown in the film). For several folks, AFSPA is draconian law which allows the Indian army to have brutal crackdowns and crush human rights. Yet, the first scene itself shows the need for such an act. Even the ending scene, where the army men anticipating 1 terrorist run into 4 and lose their lives show that in the current state of affairs, normalcy is not an option.
But juxtapose this act with killing of three imprisoned youths who were killed in cold blood by the JKP police officer because even a dead body is worth a lakh and the terrible torture scenes bring out the misuses of these acts. Or the fact where the father agrees to have a false FIR just to have his son’s case come to court are heart rending.
Eventually, the best and most powerful part is saved for the last and the Bhardwaj delivers the message in the most subtle of ways. Just before he is about to die, Shahid refuses his mother’s pleas for surrender saying that he cannot live without taking the “intekaam” of his father’s death. Yet, when his mother dies, a half mad Shahid does most sensible act of all: Of not killing his father’s killer. He realizes the truth “that intekaam is intekaam hi paida hota hai”. Crying, bleeding and half mad with grief, Shahid leaves the killer of his father to his own fate not knowing what to do next.
And this scene itself transcends the movie from a great one to an extraordinary one. Just because of intekaaam, Shahid lost his mother, his lover and the peace of his life and yet when the time came to exact revenge, he realized he had gained nothing and lost everything he held dear. He realized that even exacting this revenge will not give him the peace he deserves.