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#HighPraise: British author William Dalrymple leads warm tributes to Vishal Bhardwaj and ‘Haider’

British writer William Dalrymple is leading praise for Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean adaptation ‘Haider’ after a slew of preview screenings in India and abroad.

The Scotland-born Dalrymple – arguably one of the world’s great Indophiles – described the final instalment of Bhardwaj’s adaptation of Hamlet as “brave” film, a word used by the film’s co-writer Basharat Peer. 

Dalrymple tweeted: “Haider: Tabu & Shahid & Shraddha Kapoor all excellent….superb photography & dialogue…brave politics…Brilliant @basharat_peer script”.

Set in Kashmir in the 1990’s when the turmoil in picturesque Himalayan region was at its most intense, the film is a faithful adaptation of the Bard’s most famous tragedy with the chaos of Kashmir adding to the experience.

‘Haider’ stars Shahid Kapoor in the titular lead role as well as acclaimed stars Tabu, Irrfan Khan and Kay Kay Menon.
Dalrymple wasn’t the only prominent figure praising the film.

Award-winning filmmaker Hansal Mehta said that Bhardwaj is a “brilliant story-teller” who had “re-defined Hamlet”.

‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ director Mira Nair tweeted: “Brilliant #basharatpeer,  mesmerising Tabu, @irrfan_k, kashmir’s agony & beauty – all in the masterful hands of Vishal B – #Haider is a MUST SEE”.

Meghna Gulzar, daughter of poet Gulzar who penned the lyrics to some of the film’s haunting songs, said “#Haider captures you.  Subliminally.  As you absorb it, layer by bewitching layer, it engulfs you.  Sheer poetry…with passion and panache!”

Meanwhile ‘Midnight’s Children’ director Deepa Mehta called the film “politically relevant” and “heartbreakingly satisfying”.

It wasn’t just the authors and filmmakers who led the praise.  Among the Bollywood stars who were effusive in their praise for the film were Huma Qureshi, Farhan Akhtar, Irrfan Khan – who described Shahid’s performance as an “actor erupting with tremendous force” – Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Ronnie Screwvala, Anurag Basu and countless others.

The high-profile endorsements for ‘Haider’ will be much needed, particularly given that the film – described by one London-based journalist as the “best film about Kashmir ever made” – opens on the same day (October 2) as one of the costliest Bollywood films of all time – the appropriately-titled ‘Bang Bang’, starring Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif.

Whilst the two films – as Bhardwaj and many others have been at great pains to point out – are incomparable, they do show up the sheer variety that exists in Indian cinema today: one, a painstakingly crafted, thoughtful and timely film about one of the great political issues of our time and the other a glitzy, glamorous remake of a Hollywood romp made with equally meticulous attention to spending as much money on each frame as possible.

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