Frankly, I did not expect Haider to be a different movie than what Bollywood has been dishing out on topics of Kashmir and Punjab militancy for many years. However, ‘Haider’, the story of a militant, directed by a, Vishaal Bharadwaj, has, in the present context, gone well beyond what is expected of a young and well known director. Once it was known that a picture by the name ‘Haider’ is being shot in Kashmir, we should have expected it to be what it has proved to be; an apologist for the militants and a severe critic of our Army. For the past 25 years, ever since the eruption of Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in Kashmir, the media, including Bollywood, has shown completely one-sided picture of the events there to the world outside. It was media, more than any-one else, which buried the story of the exodus of 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1989-90.
It is an open secret that the ‘D’ Company-ISI nexus has , over the last few years, strengthened its hold over Bollywood, in many ways than one. Its flow of money in the production of movies is well known. While asking for its pound of flesh, the well known enemies of Hindustan cannot be faulted for asking the producers to make movies which glorify the militants. In earlier movies, the message was subtle, but now, as the time went by, it has become more brazen.
As far as ‘Haider’ is concerned, the movie is completely one sided. Pakistan funded and sustained insurgency in Kashmir inflicted untold misery on many victims who suffered enormous damage during the past 25 years. Unfortunately, Vishal Bharadwaj chose to glorify the wrong one; the one who shoulders the maximum blame for the spate of violence let loose by militants in an otherwise, peaceful Kashmir. While doing so, the Director has completely ignored the damage inflicted by the likes of Haider and their God fathers on Kashmiri ethos, generally based on Sufi Islam. That the militancy has torn to shreds the fabric of Kashmiri society, where inter-religious co-existence had established itself as a way of life, has been completely lost sight of. Did Visal Bharadwaj not see the wide-spread destruction of life and property in Kashmir which saw thousands of Kashmiris getting killed by the militants, imported from Pakistan? What about the exodus of nearly 4 lac Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, which had been their home for as long as history can remember. What about their homes, property, their lands, their orchards and their numerous religious places? What about the killing of nearly 3000 members of this miniscule minority before they fled from there for their lives. What about the blood curdling cries of Jehad, conversion to Islam and threats to their lives that made Kashmiri Pandits flee, with barely any wherewithal of starting in new life in alien environment? Did Bharadwaj not know all this? All these aspects of Kashmir insurgency have completely been ignored.
As usual, for a media person to hit at the Army comes easy and is the most convenient thing to do; knowing very well that Army man is governed by tough rules and he cannot hit back. In Haider too, Vishal Bharadwaj has chosen to do precisely that. His movie shows Army in poor light. He has totally overlooked the fact that but for the Army’s presence in Kashmir, the Valley would have been like North Waziristan or the lawless FATA of Pakistan, where Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani network is ruling the roost.
Despite all that, Vishal Bharadwaj would have gone off the hook. After all, for far too long have Indians become immune to the message of such movies. What has attracted severe criticism this time is the fact that an iconic 8th century Sun Temple called Martand, has been shown in the movie as a devil’s house, where the film’s main charactors are performing some kind of ghost dance. Martand temple was made by one of India’s greatest soldier-statesman, Lalitaditya Muktapida, who ruled Kashmir between 724 and 761 CE. Built over Mattan Karewa, the imposing ruins of the temple, also called the Cyclops of the east, even today, present a picture of splendor. Sikandar Butshikan (Sikandar the iconoclast) who ruled Kashmir between 1389 and 1413 tried every trick in his armory to destroy this temple, but did not succeed. He even got the base of the structure dug and burnt wood therein for days on end to bring down the temple, but failed to do so. But Vishal Bharadwaj did not think twice before depicting it as a Ghost house.
Vishal Bharadwaj chose Basharat Peer as his guide and the movie is largely based on the latter’s book, The Curfewed Night; clearly a one sided account of the happenings in Kashmir during the first 15 years of insurgency there.
Film makers like Vishal Bharadwaj have huge audiences, world-wide and such directors must be conscious of the message that the movie conveys. I am afraid; ‘Haider’ conveys a totally lop-sided view of the tragic situation in Kashmir. Sorry, Vishal, ‘ Haider’ does no credit to you ; neither as an Indian, nor as a serious film director.