Taking Shakespearean Adaptations To Another Level… : Haider

The auteur Vishal Bhardwaj has taken the classic The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark ; and has infused a new life into it with his gripping drama, Haider. Probably the best way to express how brilliant this adaptation is, at doing justice to its source material yet leaving its own mark, is the poetic way in which probably the most famous and most quoted dialogue of Shakespeare’s work, “to be, or not to be….”, has been used.

Dil ki agar sunu toh tu hai…
Dimaag ki sunu toh tu hai nahi…
Jaan lu ki jaan du…
Mein rahu ki mein nahi

Which would translate to

If I listen to my heart, it is you…
If I follow my brain, it isn’t…
Should I take a life, or give mine…
To be or not to be.

Now this translation,  might just ruin the feel, but the poignancy with which this particular scene has been written and further more the way in which Shahid Kapoor (playing the film’s protagonist, Haider) delivers it was simply mesmerizing.


Not just that, but the film has an underlying political commentary that has been presented in a “not-so-subtle” manner, which was the cause for massive outrage. Set in the beautiful Kashmir, this film is probably the first one to present a realistic scenario of the hard life that the people lead and beneath the snow-covered mountains and scenic valleys there exists great tension. The cinematographer, Pankaj Kumar, however has used even the madness to his advantage capturing aforementioned snow-clad peaks and beautiful valleys of Kashmir with great beauty. However one can sense the coldness, the harshness lying underneath.


Vishal Bhardwaj, who interestingly started his journey in the entertainment industry as a playback singer and a music composer (and yes, I was initially shocked when I came to know that), but coming back to the point, Vishal Bhardwaj has used modern music elements particularly “electro-rock” and has fused it with beautiful, traditional, classical Kashmiri music to give a powerful score to a powerful film.

There are 2 scenes that are completely outstanding in the film, the first one would be Haider’s crazy antics in the town square, which stay with the viewer long after the film is over. The second one is the song sequence, for Bismil, which is probably the best used song that I have seen in a Bollywood film in a long, long time. The lyrics of the song, which if you decipher tell a story themselves, although with the dance going on along with the song you don’t have to be a genius to know what it’s all about.

Shahid Kapoor playing the film’s protagonist, Haider who’s character is based upon Prince Hamlet does an absolutely fantastic job, swinging between the madness and the calm, his acting is something to be savored. Kay Kay Menon who played the role of Khurram Meer, whose character has been modeled upon Claudius, is the chief antagonist. The sadistic joy of seeing his performance is reminiscent of Hans Landa played by Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Tabu, playing the role of Ghazala Meer whose been modeled upon Gertrude too puts in a wonderful performance.


Tabu as Ghazala (Gertrude) and Kay Kay Menon as Khurram (Claudius)

The dialogue of the film, however, is something on a whole different level, honestly I cannot even begin to describe or put into words such a beautiful use of words themself. The beauty and the poetry in language has been brought out by Bhardway and his co-writer Basharat Peer. The dialogue of Haider is something that’ll make you want to find out what it means and honestly, it isn’t something that I’d like to see ruined by translation, the true meaning of the dialogue of Haider comes from simply realizing what it could mean without risking the chance of having the beauty of the moment be ruined by a literal, lifeless translation.


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