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The Final Cut

Bhardwaj takes on the Bard again; Bang Bang is more like whimper, whimper

The Final Cut

Haider ****
Dir: Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Narendra Jha, Irrfan Khan

Vishal Bhardwaj doing yet another Shakespeare adaptation? With the terrific Maqbool (Macbeth) and the even better Omkara (Othello) to go by, which film-buff wouldn’t find this a cause for celebration. And the first half of Haider, Hamlet transposed to Kashmir in 1995, the height of the unrest there, indeed proves to be riveting stuff. The stunning gray landscapes (beautifully captured by cinematographer Pankaj Kumar) echoing the melancholy of the main characters and the political climate of the era leaves you breathless with anticipation as Bhardwaj and co-writer, Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer (author of the memoir, Curfewed Night) put their set pieces in motion, neatly laying the plot of Hamlet over the complicated politics of Kashmir. But post-interval, as the political aspects start to take precedence over the interior terrain of the characters (where the real drama of the original play lies), the movie loses steam somewhat (it is never not engrossing, though). And by the end the politics completely overwhelms Shakespeare’s plot so much so that Bhardwaj (and Peer) deviate from Hamlet’s ending and replace it with one which never truly convinces. Rather, though Bhardwaj and Peer’s intentions may have been noble in the message that they want to send out – this is a very, very brave movie indeed and easily Bhardwaj’s most overtly political – the suspicion arises that they may have given in to political compulsions of their own. We also never really get inside the tortured psyche of Haider as much as we should have and the Oedipal undertones of the play are paradoxically made more overt yet never really catch fire.

Still, what we do have is still more interesting than almost any other Mollywood movie of this year (or any other). The cast is top notch, none more so than Tabu. As Ghazala (Gertrude), her sad eyes carrying more depth and desires than can be conveyed with mere words. Shahid Kapoor, too, has the meatiest role of his career yet as Haider, the loyal son returned to his native land to avenge the death of his father, Dr. Hilal Meer, both suspicious and jealous of his uncle, Khurram (Claudius) who may or may not have murdered his father and who may be carrying on an illicit affair with his mother, Ghazala. Kapoor bites into his part with relish, even if he can’t quite capture the eternally conflicted nature of his character nor his shifting lack of resolve. Kay Kay Menon is as good as he usually is in the role of the unctuous Khurram and Narendra Jha makes quite an impact as the possibly betrayed Hilal, forever reciting Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Shraddha Kapoor brings her uniquely effective vulnerability to Arshia (Ophelia), childhood betrothed of Haider. And Irrfan Khan (who has a tendency to overplay his hand at times) has a wonderful cameo as Roohdar, the so-called ghost of Hilal Meer.

Bhardwaj’s other strength as music director is also evident here. He consistently makes the most original, inventive music in Indian (Hindi) cinema – often in combination with Gulzar as the lyricist – and the same holds true here. ‘Bismal’ is a stunner of a track and the surreally shot, haunting and darkly mischievous ‘Aao tum bhi apni qabr khodo aur isme so jao’ sung by a quartet of gravediggers, would be a winner on any Broadway stage. This musical number is a triumph of cinematic chutzpah (indeed, the very word with which Bhardwaj gleefully plays during the course of the movie) and the movie is well worth watching for this scene alone. Our good fortune then that the movie has many more pleasures to offer.

Cut to chase: Definitely well worth your while.

Bang Bang * 1/2
Dir: Siddharth Anand
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Katrina Kaif, Danny Denzongpa, Jimmy Shergill, Javed Jaffrey, Deepti Naval

bang-bangGorgeous looking stars, beautiful locales, reasonably good stunts, unlimited budget. You would think that it would take a mighty effort to mess up the official Hindi remake of the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz action rom-com Knight And Day. But director Siddharth Anand and writers Sujoy Ghosh and Suresh Nair (with Abbas Tyrewala on dialogue) proceed to do just that. Most blow-’em-up action films don’t necessarily need a plot that makes sense – this one involves a jewel thief taking on some nasty terrorists (who just happen to have Muslim names!) but they certainly need some kind of internal coherence. No such luck here as the movie just moves from set piece to set piece – any excuse for leading man Hrithik Roshan to perform his patented dance moves or some new stunts – without much in the way of any linkages. Plus the stunts themselves are kind of hard to swallow – the Hrithik sequence with the water jetpacks may make for a dramatic shot but when the same scene has him diving in and out of the water like a dolphin it makes no sense whatsoever. And when a 90 minute plot has an extra hour tacked on to it the form of melodramatic scenes involving murdered brothers and grieving parents and mischievous grandmothers then it all gets to be a bit headache inducing.

When the first Dhoom came out I thought Mollywood may have just gotten the hang of making sleek, sexy, fun action films with good stunt work. No such luck. It’s been all downhill since then – including the two Dhoom sequels. Watch this only if you are a die-hard Hrithik or Katrina fan. They look good and at least they seem to be having some fun.

Cut to chase: Makes a lot of noise but ends with a whimper.

[email protected]; khusromumtaz.wordpress.com

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