Watching Haider & Vishal’s betrayal

Categories Opinion

I watched Haider. Most of you may have, already. Fantastic and bold movie. No?

But I walked angry and felt betrayed. Not by the story, but by the storytelling. Vishal Bharadwaj may not have compromised on the content of the movie, but he definitely did on the methods used. Please explain what was the role of the Salman-Salman in the movie? How was their being Salman copycats take the story further?

A friend explained that they provided comic relief. First of all, it was mimic relief, that is not same as comic. And, relief? You tell a powerful, emotive, controversial story and punctuate that with sheer idiocy. How is that relief? You should trust your viewer to absorb the story completely without you squeezing them dry from time to time. I, for one, wanted to immerse myself in the drama without being jolted out of it.

Their being Salman fans added nothing to the narrative. Their not being fans would have taken nothing away. Of course, many in the theater loved it. There was laughter and whistling etc. But inserting a Johny Lever do-alike to arouse applause is so unlike Vishal and such a betrayal of the story.

Let’s look at his previous works. I consider Omkara as his best when it comes to storytelling integrity. Of course, there was the jilted lover who was comical, but his being the jester was not intentional. Then, there is the Naseeruddin –Om Puri due in Maqbool who serve as comic relief. But they were also “sutradhars” or narrators of the story. They were not implanted like the Salman square in Haider, they were intrinsic to the story.

What I loved is he has not curbed his fluid transitions between prose and poetry in direction. Remember Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola? I liked the movie because it didn’t tell the story like a prose, linear movie. It borrowed heavily from “geeti-natya” or dance-drama theater format and failed to engage audiences. Thankfully, there is plenty of those sudden flights in Haider. The three grave diggers suddenly breaking into a song, Haider donning the beak and breaking conspicuously with the character trajectory…

These dramatic overdoes are points where the movie shifts gear and the heightened, though seemingly absurd, interjections emphasise the importance of the event. I am glad few things have not changed and I only hope he does not get a Kader Khan-Govinda duo, awesome as they were, in his next,