So many reviews about movie Haider have been written on Facebook and other social media. The film generally evokes mixed responses from the audience but a part of the Indian Audience can make the concept easily understandable. I generally find film reviews grossly misleading. My go-to person for many things including movies is my all knowing son.
So I asked my son yesterday, Bill, this Haider movie is based on Hamlet. What happens in Hamlet ?
Everyone dies in the end Papa !
Oh !!! thanks Bill.
Few years back in February I had gone to India & was looking for a book called Our Moon has blood clots by Rahul Pandita . This book was an autobiographical account of Hindus - Kashmiri Pandit (KPs) set during the turbulent times of 1989/1990 when the whole community of 300,000 odd KPs had to run for their lives from the violence unleashed by Islamic Terrorists , trained & financed by Pakistan, our eternal villain.
Basharat Peer happens to be the co- writer of movie Haider set in Kashmir of 1995 when Basharat was still a teenager in Kashmir & Islamic terrorists ruled the valley by fear of AK 47. So what was Kashmir of 1995 like? Let me jog your memory with explanations for my overseas non Indian friends as well.
Tourism in Kashmir collapsed following the 1995 abduction of six western men, including two Britons, Keith Mangan and Paul Wells, who were taken hostage by Islamist group Al-Faran. One American tourist escaped, but a Norwegian, Hans Christian Ostrø, was beheaded. How the other four died is uncertain to this day.
The whole town of Charar-i-sharief got burnt down in 1995 , including its famous 650 year old Shrine , during the fierce encounter between Indian troops and Jehadi terrorists . To counter the Islamic Jehadis & their dreadful violence India raised a special force called Rashtriya Rifles who were soldiers & officers on secondment (deputation) from Indian Army.
They were raised to fight present day ISIS type Jehadis who took no prisoners. They hit upon a great plan . Captain Mishra (name changed) thought if a counter insurgency movement could be led by surrendered or compromised Ex-Jehadis some semblance of law & order could be restored in Kashmir which was run by the diktats of so called Mujahedeens & the like.
In summary they employed ex-thieves to catch old battle hardened thieves. India became increasingly dependent on the vigilantes. Groups such as the Jammu and Kashmir Ikhwan drawn from some 3,000 former Kashmiri Jehadis who surrendered to the Government. Paid monthly salaries of up to 12,000 rupees ($200), and allowed to keep their weapons, they acted as informers, leading soldiers to militant hideouts. (as is seen in the opening scenes of Hiader the movie )
The Rashtriya Rifles (RR) army became the surrendered militants' main income source. The Ikhwanis thus became the eyes and ears of the army, identifying terrorists among the people of Kashmir during 'crack down' of a particular area as shown in the movie when the Surgeon is identified by the masked surrendered Ikwani.
In many cases personal scores were settled & innocent people were identified by these Ikwanis to RR for interrogation in a Special place near Oberoi Palace Hotel called Papa 2 , called Mama 2 in the movie. We were pointed to this building , now a state guest house by our Shikarawala / boatman who was given away to RR by his cousin because of previous family feud ! Fortunately for Gani his loyal mother wept bitterly in front of Army commander who trusted her story & released Gani to safety ! Gani is still my mobile phone friend ! An honest Shikarawala who does not even take a tip.
Those were very difficult & testing times for many innocent Kashmiris & Indian Army. It is to the credit of Indian Army that the back bone of Jehadi led Azadi ( freedom) movement was broken as the Jehadis had local population led to believe that Azadi was round the corner. Around the same time many Jehadis made lot of money from extortion & kidnappings etc amongst the Kashmiri people & many Kashmiri Muslims also migrated out , truth be told.
Movies like Haider are very easy to see but difficult to understand if you don't know the background & the setting like a Harry Potter film where reading the novel before hand makes it easier to understand the characters & the storyline. Haider will thus mean different to different viewers depending on their level of understanding of the Kashmir situation in Mid 1990's
The story of Haider movie is pretty straightforward.
Haider has been sent away to Aligarh for education to escape recruitment by Militant as was common those days . His surgeon dad gets a dreaded Militant as a patient with appendicitis. Doctor operates on him at his own home & he is super-grassed by his own brother who lusts for his wife.
The Surgeon is immediately identified by a Ikwani - ex militant in a Crack down parade & bundled out by Security forces. Hidden militants in his house start firing on the Security forces who blow up his home by a shoulder fired rocket.
Meanwhile Haider returns after his education & finds his mom in a room with her brother- in -law singing songs to each other. Haider does not like this situation & wants to know & find his missing father. Heroine of the film , a police bigwigs daughter , tries to help him & finds a Militant ready to help Haider. This militant has been in torture chambers & interrogation cell with his dad. Both are thrown in Jhelum river to drown. Surgeon drowns but the dreaded militant escapes to tell Haider that his uncle was the informer of his dad.
Haider tells his mom about his dads death & subsequently his uncle proposes marriage amongst few songs & drama. The movie climaxes in death of Heroine . Uncle , & other baddies being killed by mom who blows herself n others as a suicide bomber.
In the closing titles of the film , Indian Army is thanked for their role in helping Kashmiris in recent floods , as an afterthought after painting them as real villains in the movie. Was the Producer or Director guilty of something. I am really surprised that this movie got passed from the scissors of Indian Film Censor board. You castigate your own security forces in worst possible way , when they were only trying to wrestle back Kashmir for India from the violence unleashed by Militants & still censor board finds the movie fit for U certification, they must be busy eating free Samosas n chutney rather than grasp the obvious message of the movie.
Movie does not show Militants as saints but does paint Security forces as villains. I have not mentioned about the omission of any reference to Kashmiri Pandits in the movie who by 1995 were no where to be seen in the valley , having been ethnically cleansed by 1990.
The Writer is a UK Based Surgeon with keen interest in issues related to J&K
Follow him on twitter: @drvivekkaul