Haider review through the Kashmiri Pandit lens

My Haider review

Several people wrote to me that I should see Haider. Ash said, it was uncanny to hear the same songs in the backdrop as she had heard at my sister’s wedding. At this point, I am surprised at how well Kay Kay Menon & Tabu pulled off the song – with the accent that was really not bad. Shraddha Kapoor perfected lov-ed, but fell severely short of singing her Ophelia goes mad song. I could hardly understand what she was saying till I realized she was singing in Kashmiri.  And there’s a review I was reading about why all the actors did not speak a little more Kashmiri- well because it sounds weird when it’s not done right. Although, I have to admit, I liked the nice touches around the Urdu sounds. Many were using the Kashmiri Urdu accent. We don’t have the “gh”ar, “bh” sounds like Hindi/Urdu, and I still make mistakes. I also liked that Srinagar was not called Shrinagar- because we do not say it like that. Also, they retained the Kashmiri Muslim dialects, which is good. Mouji is not something a Kashmiri Pandit would call his maaej.

My favourite parts in the movie were: the fact that how it was the perfect backdrop for Hamlet. It had everything from mass graves, to monologues, to half-widows, to lack of trust, which naturally lend themselves to the Hamlet settings. I loved the fantastic touches in the “play within the play” song. Baramulla ke Sheeri pull se was my favourite lyrical treat from Gulzar in this one. I was also very excited with the Grave diggers song and enjoyed the interpretation of the doctor’s Rooh. Although, for multiple reasons, the standout part for me surprisingly was not the subtlety but the madness in the bald avatar of Shahid talking about so many multiple things all at once.

 

There’s a massive dissonance in the Kashmiri pathos and expression as I understand it. The poetry and “lol” of the language, even the prayers are sufiana, are not always differentiating between Godly and earthly love, talking of spirituality in the same way as the love of moh maya oriented human beings. I have not yet found a direct way to say, I love you in Kashmiri. It often seems to be a language that uses indirect, flowery euphemisms to convey meanings. Yet, on the other hand, a Kashmiri person’s love for personifications is often conflicted by an excessive- sometimes almost fake (to another person) display of emotions and drama. I have several dramatic cousins and I know several Kashmiri Muslims who will go all out and reach an extreme level in dramatics in real life. Sometimes even for situations that do not warrant those reactions. When I am excessively upset about something very small, I get dramatic in what may seem like filmy fake ways. But those are my real natural Kashmiri emotions coming to the fore. I wonder if it is because everything else is so indirect and subtle, that it is almost a let out to go overboard when you topple the balance. Kashmiris have also perhaps struggled (historically) to be believed a lot by others. Everyone has had their opinion of what story they’d like to believe in- even without experiencing anything first hand. I do think, Shahid’s monologue could have been perfected by a better actor. But the element of fakeness or lack of finesse, especially in this one scene lends a lot of context to the setting. It makes me believe he is that Koshur Kot. Emotional, over the top and dramatic for effects, and because that’s perhaps not what Kashmiris are far from, in reality. He did most things right in this scene- which was also very well written- from aping a certain dialect when talking about the Nehruvian blunder, to narating “Hum kya chahate…Azadi“- a slogan I heard multiple times as a child. It was also used as a weapon to scare us into leaving home (which was not orchestrated by Jagmohan, before anyone starts on that tangent).  Another fear tool was the fact that, Kashmiri separatists and Muslims in the 90s had started calling Anantnag Islamabad. It’s used exactly right in the movie because that’s how the Muslims would use it. With his baaz mask- pre and post this scene and the Bismil track, Shahid almost acted like a Baand, which I also felt was highly contextual. Baand pather ma kar is a phrase often used to indicate, don’t throw tantrums.

haider amul ad

via Amul

I am not entirely sure if it is a modern classic as well. It’s well made, and it made me question and compare things a lot. Maybe that was the intent too, but I did not feel bad. I felt Harud moved me more on the missing person phenomena, made me feel more empathetic. Haider, however kept me alert, on the edge, but at the same time, did not evoke empathy for characters. It made me feel as if they earned their nemesis. Like those NPR shows about army personnel who go to Afghanistan and come back with traumatic disorders. These which we do not talk much of in real lives. Children growing only in conflict grow up differently. I recognized that, but also that it is a movie. For me, it was not Vishal’s best, but that’s also because I am unable to see it without rationalizing it somehow and also knowing it far too well in ways that I can not ignore.

Mother said (about Basharat Peer) that it is dangerous that children who grew up only in conflict should share their stories because they never saw the good times and are extremely one-sided. I feel, they have their own stories and sharing those will only just add richness to the narrative. I did not think it was one-sided. It was one story. The jokers who had issues with the Indian army portrayal completely missed the plot. I also do not think the Kashmiri Pandit phenomena was missing. They had already been thrown out by 1990. Besides, this story belonged elsewhere.

My uncle had said, in conflict everyone suffered. But exposure to everyday conflict is temporary, eventually it goes away. Rootlessness however is permanent. I do not entirely believe that. I think in a person’s lifetime both are equally permanent. For the generations ahead though, the roots do make a bigger difference when they disappear. My mother lived in downtown, 3rd bridge. The neighbour who shared a wall with them was an area commander (with Kalashnikovs) by the time we left in a truck in the night in 1990. The house with the rose garden that grandfather promised to grow me purple pansies in was burnt down in 1991. I did not understand the significance of calling Anantnag Islamabad as a child. Now if someone says it, I do not get scared, instead I feel they’re erasing my childhood and insisting that it did not exist. Hum hain ki hum nahin?

Update 1: Our house in Peerbagh, Srinagar was burnt on 26th January, 1991. Initially I recalled and noted down 1995.

Update 2: The movie had baand pather- a dying storytelling art form from Kashmir also very popular in Akingam close to Anantnag that I included later.  

15 comments
  1. Excellent review! I wonder if some one will make a movie from Kashmiri Pandit’s point of view, it’s like world has forgotten about them.

    1. I think it’s a story that’ll stay in my heart. Sometimes, the world doesn’t matter.

  2. Great article this looks like a true kashmiri person writing about truth Basheer peer is a kashmiri behaving as an Arab

    1. I am not sure what behaving like an Arab really means, but thanks for your appreciation for the article.

  3. Superb insights….. Thoughtful writing …..Great writing made my day ….upasna….I really liked your insights about Kashmiri emotion

    You should write more like this kudos

  4. It is actually a nice and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that you shared this useful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for
    sharing.

  5. I liked it too! (The stark performances & general treatment of the film) – and of course, the “chutzpah” factor 🙂

    1. not really. In fact I feel it’s a narrative that’s uncomfortable and hence kept out.

  6. I also had similar thoughts about this being touted as VB’s best work till date. Also concur on the characters evoking empathy part. I kept on feeling as an outsider and did not really feel involved, as I did in blue umbrella, which eventually moved me to uncontrollable tears.
    I was really interested to read your views on the ‘kashmir’ setting. I think I now understand things in a much open way. 🙂

    1. I felt an exceptional human connect with Blue Umbrella. There are few movies I’ve felt that with.

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