28 September, 2020

Haider, Not Thither

Vishal Bhardwaj’s Hamlet may not be perfect but it asks difficult questions of Kashmir

Haider, Not Thither

Shortly after Indian independence, in November 1947 to be precise, it was at Srinagar’s famous Lal Chowk that the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the tricolour and promised Kashmiris their right to choose their political future. The square has ever since been the backdrop for several token political gestures as well as some raging conflicts and controversies. The big moment of Haider, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Hamlet set in 1995 Kashmir, is the invocation of this Lal Chowk plebiscite and the forgotten promise of demilitarisation and self-determination. In the film’s most rousing scene, you have Haider grieving his father’s death and betrayal by those close to him. Head shaven, noose around his neck, a transistor hanging in front, he blabbers away some uncomfortable truths in his seeming madness. He speaks of Article 370 (that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir), of India and Pakistan playing border-border with Kashmir, and rounds it off with—“Hum leke rahenge azadi”. The crowd...



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