Haider: Desperately seeking Hamlet in the Valley of Kashmir
Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kashmir drama is a beautifully acted but sloppily assembled adaptation of the Shakespeare classic.
Haider is Vishal Bhardwaj’s third attempt to map William Shakespeare’s texts, characters and plotting patterns for India’s social and political realities. The English playwright’s brooding tragedies have vastly helped the ambitious filmmaker chart new directions for well-travelled themes. Macbeth reoriented the mafia movie (Maqbool), while Othello seemed perfect to explore caste and power relations in Uttar Pradesh (Omkara).
Hamlet initially appears to be the best available guide for Bhardwaj to navigate Kashmir, the favourite setting for romantic interludes and honeymoon bashfulness until the Azaadi movement exploded in the late eighties, marking it forever as a valley of gloom and death. The sweet prince of Denmark is endlessly adaptable, and has been set in situations as varied as Stalinist Russia (Grigori Kozintsev’s Hamlet) and amoral corporate Japan (Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well).