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An open letter to Vishal Bhardwaj on #Haider

Publication: Haiderflawed.blogspot.in
Date: October 14, 2014
URL: http://haiderflawed.blogspot.in/2014/10/bismil-song-of-haider-at-martand-sun.html?spref=tw

Dear Mr Vishal Bhardwaj,
In the context of your recently released film #Haider I not only as a Kashmiri Pandit but as a Kashmiri have few concerns with regard to its adaptation from Hamlet & script written by Basharat Peer -  a Kashmiri Muslim himself )

First as a Kashmiri Pandit & as a Hindu Brahman I felt offended to have seen a song picturised on the lawns of Historical & ancient Martand Sun Temple  (the hindu Sun God) that could have easily been shot elsewhere and the script did not necessarily demand such a background. Having done so, you added injury to the insult by symbolising the background of the song as den of an emerging devil (Khurram obviously, in your film) from the "garbha graha" the sanctum sanctorum. The huge puppet appears to be an inspiration spilled from the Bhaand Pathar  ( an ethnic drama society of Kashmir - the Bhaands ). The Foreign Press Reporter speaks of the act being performed by the Bhaands for a peaceful Kashmir. However, the adopted devil character from the Bhaand Pathar apparently represents the devilish side of #Haider's mother and uncle Khurram.

Another thought that just came to my mind about possibility of your showcasing the Martand Sun Temple could be to appease those who hate worshipers of Sun God, apart from Hindus,  for instance the #Yazdis who are being butchered and slaughtered by #ISIS, in the backdrop of Kashmiri Sunni Separatist's leaning towards the Islamic State ideology ? Just a thought - could be a coincidence.

The song follows a scene where Khurram is seeking permission of elders to marry his widowed Sister-in-law ( Tabbu ) that is granted & cut to "Nikah" where both say yes to the knot & #Haider being the central character of the film, is unwantedly pushed into dance sequence in the next scene partly as a celebration of the marriage and partly to vent out his frustration .  Well, I won't be bothered much about your production part and its values thereof but I want to make a point that cut to the scene of this song at Martand Sun Temple lawns was absolutely uncalled for and not at all necessary to be shot there.  I would love to see how many of the Hollywood or Bollywood Directors would differ that the song warranted such a locale and could not have been picturised elsewhere.  Why not at Hazratbal Dargah premises instead that had much better scenic background with mountains and Chinar Trees and lake etc.in the background.  This would have made it more subtle in the context of Kashmir.  Nevertheless you chose otherwise.

As a Kashmiri Pandit, my genuine grievance remains that despite the fact that more than 3,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes empty handed & continue to live like refugees in their own country, you as well as Basharat Peer found it convenient to ignore. Forget about Kashmiri Pandit or Kashmiri Brahman or Kashmiri Hindu, what about 3 lakh humans who are refugees in their own country for 25 years now ? Did your conscious not prick you even once ? They have been a micro minority of the Valley without any minority benefits or privileges compared to their peers elsewhere in the Country who expect all the benefits and privileges as a Minority. How were Kashmiri Pandits not so important in the context of your film #Haider ? As long as your film remains in the public domain, these questions will continue to remain and haunt you as a human being. Kashmiri Pandit community too have gone through the violence against them - the #Genocide, brutal killings, murders and rapes of their women, how are they born of a lesser God ? Why does world look the other way, including the people like you, when it comes to their ongoing plight? You definitely need to introspect.

My another concern is about the UA Certificate granted to the film with parental discretion by the Censor Board.  I understand the film has been granted this certificate after about 41 cuts. To what extent has the film been able to retain the expression and message that you intended to give, after 41 cuts, is a matter of concern. I have no idea of the scenes that have been censored.  You might have tried to balance the film but you have almost portrayed the Indian Army as Villains. The focus is more on local police rather than paramilitary or military forces that remained engaged in anti-terrorism operations in the Valley.   Because of these reasons, I had to file two RTI applications against the Censor Board of Film Certification through the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. It has directed the Censor Board on 8th of October, 2014 to provide me the details of these cuts as also the Minutes of the Board meeting relevant to the certification of #Haider.  There has been a media report wherein one member of the Censor Board, Nandini Sardesai has alleged that the suspended CEO of CBFC Rakesh Kumar allegedly arrested for bribery, did not refer #Haider to the Review Committee and issued the Certificate to it after its two exclusive screening with him.   The timing of the issuance of the UA Certificate to #Haider and CEO's arrest raises several questions in the mind of the people who have every right to know the facts.

Lastly, I am sure research team of #Haider have done lot of hard work but have failed on several counts.  Few important of them are -

* For instance, Haider when gets down the bus for security check, he says he is going to Srinagar & when asked where does he live he says Islamabad (in fact Anantnag ). What made him to say Srinagar & not so called "Islamabad"  in the first place ? Subsequently Arshi (Shraddha Kapoor ) explains to the Army Officer that Anantnag is also referred as Islamabad. It looks this controversial name of the town has been included in the script intentionally although the script did not warrant it. The place of #Haider's residence could have been mentioned as Srinagar that he mentioned in the first place, where he was going.

* Arshi (Shraddha Kapoor), the Heroin of the film and a Journalist sarcastically calls an Army Officer a "Masala Dosa" just because he is a South Indian ? Doesn't it construe to "Racism" and disrespect for other culture, ethnicity or a religion ? Have you not insulted & hurt the sentiments of millions of South Indian soldiers of the Indian Army & billions of other south indians ?

Skull cap used by KK Menon (Khurram) & few other characters in the film is not part of the ethnic wear of the Muslim community of Jammu & Kashmir.  Such skull caps in the Muslim community might be seen elsewhere in India but definitely not in Kashmir.

* Tabbu referred as Mojee ( mother ) is fine but when Khurram is referring her to #Haider ( during his hysterical speech at Lal Chowk ), he should have said Moj NOT Mojee. Mojee is when it is one to one or when you are calling mother. If you have been so passionate about distorting the expression of english accent by Kashmiris, you should have equally been as passionate to work on these finer details as well.

Local accent of English language is unwarranted and adds not much of value to the film. It appears symbolic, quite artificial & deliberate. Reflects very poorly about the Kashmiris as a whole.  Unfortunately, you do not seem to have come across Kashmiris who speak english with much better accent than anyone else.  Does Basharat Peer, the script writer of the film also have that local accent ? I don't think so.

* Football has always been the popular game in the valley that could have been more relevant than showing a Table Tennis Game that too flawed with a orange ball. During the picturised period of #Haider being 1995, white Table Tennis ball was more relevant because orange balls came into being much later in the game.

* Wahhabi Islamic code was enforced in Kashmir around the period of your film wherein cinema halls and video parlours were shut down, beauty parlours were closed, and consumption of alcohol was strictly forbidden.  Wonder how did this Video Parlour existed & formed an important part of your film. The two important characters therein making fun of Yiddish word #Chutzpah with a foreigner tourist couple (Pronouncing it as चुज़पह contrary to हज़पाः that it shold have been ) in the context of AFSPA as a satire ?

* Lalit Parimoo ( a Kashmiri Pandit himself ) as Parvez Lone, introduces himself as SP Downtown (Jammu & Kashmir Police - JKP ) wearing a police uniform of an Inspector with three stars.

How can a Director of your repute do such a blunder ? Superintendent of Police would have one Ashoka Emblem & a Star not three stars on his uniform. Lalit himself would have been familiar that and this much would be expected of an old actor like him, being the minimum.

Indian Army didn't have a RPG-7 in its inventory and the RL-84 Rocket launchers that it used, never set buildings to fire.They just drilled holes through the walls. The soldiers move around with INSAS rifles in the film set in 1995 when these weapons were introduced only in 1997. The vehicles used by the Indian Army in 1995 were not the ones soldiers use in the movie.

* The stars on the collar dogs for Brigadiers and above were introduced in 2000s and a Brigadier (portrayed by Ashish Vidyarthi in the film) couldn't have worn them in 1995.

The script writer Basharat Peer couldn't hold back his temptation of a brief & passing appearance in the film (with no dialogues ? ) a person in the film not getting inside his home - shown as being habituated of frisking. Could he not hold back his urge though it is not a disqualification for the film? But why the temptation and urge at all ? Playing victim ?

* In the climax of your film before Mojee blasts herself with the Grenades tied on her, she looks lustful even towards her son #Haider  and goes on to kiss him on his lips ? What made you think Kashmiris (Muslims or Hindus) are loose charactered that a mother could be portrayed in such a humiliating manner and this scene can not be watched by a son and a mother sitting together ? If the scene is scripted by Basharat Peer & not direct adoption from Hamlet, he should hang his head in shame for embarrassing Kashmiri mothers & showcasing them as Sluts.

I hope you or someone from your core team gets to see my open letter to you and explains your position vis-a-vis the points raised about the #Haider as above. 

Moral of the story -

"you can fool some people sometimes but not all the people all the times"

Thank you  &  with regards

Rajender Khushu

New Delhi (India)


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