Of Sons & Lovers, Redux

Bhardwaj's takes on Shakespeare have produced female figures of rare frankness and sexual vitality, but their power is shaped by a constricting masculine world. Haider is no exception

10/31/2014 12:52:03 PM
written By : Trisha Gupta Print

With his adaptation of Hamlet into Haider, Vishal Bhardwaj completes his supremely ambitious trilogy of Shakespeare tragedies reimagined in Indian contexts. Since this is not a review, all I'll say here is that Haider shares with the two previous films in the trilogy - 2004's Maqbool and 2006's Omkara - Bhardwaj's now- trademark accomplishments: stunning frames composed with an eye for beauty that does not preclude terror, pitch-dark humour, and consummate detailing, including an unerring ear for the cadences of both speech and music in each milieu he chooses to evoke. 

Of course, all this detailing would come to nought if Bharadwaj were not able to make Shakespeare's 400-year-old characters seem to emerge organically from his fully-realised contemporary settings. But he does. And he does so by sticking close to the bone of the most elemental fears and passions. What struck me particularly, as I watched Haider, was that Bhardwaj's interpretations of Shakespeare all come to centre on sexual jealousy. In Omkara, the emphasis does not need to be created: Othello's climactic conflict was already about jealousy. Like Othello's suspicion of his wife Desdemona, Omi's niggling doubt about Dolly grows from a speck into a dark cloud that engulfs their whole universe. But in Maqbool and now in Haider, it is Bhardwaj's rejigging that makes jealousy the prime motive force. 

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