India Insight

Movie Review: Haider

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In retelling William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” against the backdrop of war and sectarian strife in Indian-administered Kashmir, Vishal Bhardwaj’sHaider” starts off promisingly. It’s too bad that the promise never delivers.

A handout still from the film "Haider"A tense, beautiful 10-minute opening sequence introduces Kashmiri doctor Hilal Meer, who thinks nothing of hiding and treating a wanted militant in his house, and his wife Ghazala. Meer does it for humanitarian reasons, telling his wife, “I support life over death.”

Of course, the Indian Army discovers the militant leader, bombs their house, and the doctor becomes one of the “disappeared”, one of thousands of people who were taken away by the army, never to be heard of again.

 Then Haider (Shahid Kapoor) comes home looking for his father the doctor after years studying in “India” (as the Kashmiris refer to that wide expanse to the south, differentiating it from their defunct kingdom). The Kashmiri version of Denmark’s student prince mires himself in turmoil as he witnesses the growing closeness between his mother Ghazala (Tabu) and his father’s brother, Khurram (Kay Kay Menon). A handout still from the film "Haider"

Naturally, this is about as happy as the plot gets. People commit violence, tell lies, trap themselves in misunderstanding and chart their courses by bad stars toward tragic ends. The script, co-written by journalist Basharat Peer, author of a memoir of growing up in Kashmir in the 1980s, “Curfewed Night,” is appropriately somber in tone.  After all, Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare trilogy began with two tragedies (“Maqbool” from “Macbeth” and “Omkara” from “Othello”, not the Bard’s lighter fare).

Movie Review: Gori Tere Pyaar Mein

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In Punit Malhotra’s “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein”, a woman with no medical training deems it fit to deliver a baby; an architect who hasn’t worked for years thinks he’s capable of building a bridge (who needs engineers?); and rich, privileged people feel better about themselves when they throw money at poor children.

Director Malhotra’s attempt at making a “feel-good” romance has characters that are as hollow and fake as the film’s screenplay. The heroine, an NGO worker, espouses causes from AIDS to land-grabbing to making documentaries about sex workers, but feels no remorse when she cheats her way out of a traffic jam to get to a wedding on time.

There are stereotypes aplenty. The people of Tamil Nadu state only eat idlis and vadas; the Gujaratis only eat dhokla for dinner; and they all speak with pronounced accents. Diya (Kareena Kapoor) is the do-gooder heroine, flitting from one cause to the other. Sriram (Imran Khan) is an aimless and self-centred young man, who lives off his parents, and does not understand Diya’s need to play the Good Samaritan.