Haider (Shahid Kapoor) returns from his studies at Aligarh University to Anantnag/Islamabad in the year 1995, only to learn that his father Hilal (Narendra Jha) has disappeared post an army raid. He finds that his mother Ghazala (Tabu) is far from grieving, seemingly in dalliance with his uncle Khurram (Kay Kay Menon). Along with his lady love Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor) he starts a desperate search for his missing father. In the gloom of the search, Haider is soon trapped in the vortex of hate and revenge like many others in the forsaken land of Kashmir.
Vishal Bharadwaj scores again in visuals, music and his verve for adaptation. There are many signature director moments a VB fan will recognise. No Indian filmmaker has turned a stark camera on the Indian Army-Kashmiri confrontation, until now.
But despite the umpteen cinematic moments and little touches, the film is weighed down by the verboseness and directness of its message. Just storytelling would have done, instead of footnote filled talk. Haider is still an achievement in many respects. It simmers at times but just doesn't boil over.
Shahid Kapoor is good, great in some scenes, but his crazy/confused prince act doesn't get through. Tabu and Kay Kay Menon tread in 'been there, done that' territory, Shraddha Kapoor is fine if not bewitching. Irrfan Khan's brief appearance does perk up things a bit, the gravediggers mouthing a song is a classic touch.
All in all, Haider is exceptional all through, it's just that the pain of violence, death and retribution doesn't hit hard. No questioning the effort, it is still a film to watch on 70mm.
Watch Out for...
Kashmir's poignant natural surroundings, stellar photography, the tale of three Salmans, the Arijit Singh song (Gulzar at it again) and a loony monologue on India-Pakistan.