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I did not expect my review on ‘Haider’ (http://agniveer.com/a-soldier-reviews-haider/) to get such a massive response. After all I am not a professional film critic. I am just a handicapped ex-soldier.
There are intense debates happening over my review. Opinions range from strong support to outright rejection. Nonetheless the feedback has been very useful to understand the civilian mindset and awareness on the issue.
In this article, I will address some of the feedbacks to provide a fuller perspective on the issue. I did cover many of these in my original review. But in the wide scope and length of the review, they could not come out as clearly as is evident from the feedback.
Also note that despite criticizing my review, many of you have asserted that they are proud of Indian Army and its sacrifices in Kashmir. This is extremely satisfying and fulfills the goal behind the review. In Army, we are trained to keep personal aspirations aside for the larger goal.
You did not understand the film properly. Vishal Bhardwaj was trying to be honest with plot of “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare. You should read “Hamlet” first.
I have read “Hamlet” but that is not even the point of issue here. In fact, the director has taken several liberties in adapting his film to “Hamlet” and does not confirm to original plot-line everywhere.
The real questions are:
- Why choose Kashmir to recreate “Hamlet”? Especially in an era when Kashmir is already burning and we have witnessed serious hostility of enemy neighbor and internal acts of militancy since last several years. The valley is burning and what is needed is to bridge the gap between Kashmir and rest of India to bring lasting peace everywhere. On contrary, what purpose does raking up a twenty-five year old sensitive issue serve?Hamlet could have been setup in any part of world. Why choose the most sensitive, most violent, most enemy-prone part of nation? What purpose does it serve? Yes, the movie is a big-hit in Kashmir valley. At the same time, there are flags of ISIS being waved. Good work of Army in flood-relief is being washed away under imaginations of how army tortured Kashmiris twenty-five years ago, as depicted in the film. From perspective of India’s security and integration of Kashmir with rest of the country, the movie has taken us a step backward.
- Why did Vishal Bhardwaj choose Basharat Peer as co-writer? Is Basharat Peer an expert on Shakespeare? No. Is Basharat Peer a professional film writer? No. On contrary “Haider” is the first time he is writing either for film or for Shakespeare. He is also not an old-time friend of Vishal Bharadwaj.If in a world with thousands of acclaimed film-writers and experts on Shakespeare, one chooses to pay an unknown first-timer as co-writer, there must be a compelling reason. The compelling reason, as it stands, is that Basharat Peer is a Kashmiri separatist journalist based out of New York. He studied in India, holds an Indian Passport and yet publicly regrets the fact that he is forced to hold an Indian Passport and not a Kashmiri Passport. He had written a book “Curfewed Night” which details the so-called ‘atrocities” of Indian Army and so-called ‘illegal’ occupation of Kashmir by India. In fact in the book, he goes on to admit that those who faced so-called atrocities of Indian Army were pro-Pakistanis and sheltered or groomed militants. But, being an anti-Indian, he finds nothing wrong in nurturing terrorists at home. His complaint is only against Indian Army for digging out these terrorists!The movie “Haider” is actually a film adaptation of this anti-India book “Curfewed Night” and Shakespeare is merely an add-on.
- I fail to understand what would prompt some lover of Shakespeare to choose to work with such a blatantly anti-Indian writer to adapt his anti-India book in a film, unless he harbors anti-India feelings or puts commercial gains over nation?Why Kashmir when it is one of most sensitive parts of world today?Why today when the storyline is 25 years old?Why choose and pay Basharat Peer when he is openly anti-India and has zero experience in either film-writing or Shakespeare?Why “Curfewed Night” when it is a blatantly anti-Indian pro-Pakistani pro-Separatism book?Why the film release coincides with armed aggression from Pakistan and waving of ISIS flags in Kashmir valley?
The “art-lovers” may still find “art” in all this. But we at army are trained to be more vigilant of friends and traitors. That is how we continue to protect the nation with our lives despite all obstacles.
Why take a creative expression so seriously? After all it is just a film. Enjoy the direction, photography, acting, editing, dialogues, plot. And ignore the rest. Don’t get sentimental.
This is where perhaps a soldier differs from a civilian. A civilian perhaps has ample time to cultivate a mind that enjoys the finer beauties for sake of beauty itself. A soldier has no such luxuries. He is busy fighting enemies at risk of his death, just to ensure that the civilian can comfortably enjoy these beauties.
No, we don’t join Army because of money. We join because of pride. Not self-pride. But pride of self-sacrifice for sake of motherland. Day in, day out, every moment, we are trained for only one thing – to love the motherland. For us, the country is our mother. She is more important than our biological mother. That is why before choosing to die in battlefield protecting motherland, we keep aside all emotions for the biological mother.
When we salute each other, we don’t actually salute each other. We say “Jai Hind”. We don’t say: Hello, Good Morning, Namaste, Aadaab. We glorify and salute Hindustan even when we salute each other.
Now think of it. If someone makes a movie that shows your biological mother (or wife, or sister or any woman for whom you have highest respect) as a loose character. He puts a few rape scenes, mentions that your mother indulges in a variety of innovative “chutzpah”, sleeps around with people, how would you feel?
The movie-maker may have put a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction. Or even praised your mother as a goddess in a subtitle at end of the film. Would you now recommend the world to watch and enjoy this film for awesome performance and direction? Would you thank the lady actor for portraying your mother marvelously? Would you write in reviews that the movie was a wonderful adaptation of some “Hamlet” or “Lolita”?
Forget about the movie. Even in conversation, if someone makes a lewd remark or crude “creative” joke on a woman you respect, you may pick up a fight.
Then how can one expect a soldier to not get emotional and see art and beauty in a film that insults the woman he respect the most – Bharat Mata? Mother India!
I gave my hand for Mother India. Someone gave his eyes. Saurav Kalia and Lance Naik Hemraj gave their heads. Millions of army men have made enormous sacrifice for Mother India. We only regret that we could not sacrifice more. When we say “Vande Mataram” or “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, we actually mean it. We don’t say for sake of saying.
Our love of Bharat Mata does not arouse or go down with a 15th August or 26th January, or Lata’s “Ae Mere Watan ke logo”, or Rafi’s “Kar chale hum fida”, or scores of such songs. These songs make us happy that at least the civilian Indian whom we are protecting have not forgotten us. Even if someone commercially exploits a “Chak de India” or “Lakshya” we don’t mind. Yes, we do smile because real-life battles are not that glamorous. There is no music of AR Rahman or a song playing in background. There are no slow motions, action stunts, dramatization. We simply fight and if required, we die.
We do so not because it is fun, adventure, exciting, festival or artful. We do because Bharat Mata is actually our mother.
We promise every moment that if ever someone raises a dirty eye at my Mother India, I will gouge that eye out. So far, the enemy across the border or the traitor attempts to raise that dirty eye. And we go to any extent to gouge that eye out, even at cost of death. But when our own country-men ask us to appreciate beauty in the dirty-eye’s scan of Mother, we get confused and disappointed.
For civilians, even patriotism may be a fashion or fun. For us it is the only possession we have. It is the only identity we possess.
We don’t interfere with fun and frolic of civilians regardless of whether we understand them or not. We request you to respect our sentiments as well. Do whatever you want, make whatever film you want. But don’t touch upon the only thing that makes us sentimental. And if you have touched, don’t expect us to not be sentimental.
Fine, you did not like the film. It hurt your sentiments. But why paint everything as bad in the movie? Your vision seems colored. You are being biased due to sentiments. You should be balanced.
- Soldiers are not trained to be “balanced” in civilian sense. We are trained to choose the right side. We take a decision and move ahead. Because we have to act. We cannot stand still. Civilians take “balanced” in a different sense. They assume that everything has plus and minus. And we should appreciate both and not be one sided.Soldiers go a step ahead. They say: “Fine, there are these pluses and these minuses. Now what do we do?” They weigh the pluses and minuses, and take a decision that best serves the cause. Even civilians do the same. They do when they buy anything. Every product has features and defects. Yet they decide on one. Even if you watched the movie “Haider”, you took a decision by weighing plus and minus of watching the movie.As a soldier, I look into one thing – What does the film lead to? Will it help the cause of Bharat Mata or will it not. I fear, a film written by anti-national with sympathies towards anti-nationals and hatred towards Indian Army can only be detrimental to cause of Bharat Mata. I may have lost my hand, but I cannot stop fighting for my Mother in whatever way I can.
- If Vishal Bhardwaj has liberty to color his vision as per a Basharat Peer or Shakespeare or whatever, even I enjoy the same freedom of creative expression and color my vision accordingly as per my love for my Mother India. Once I am suspicious of anti-national motives of a gang, as a rational human being, and more so as a soldier, I am bound to evaluate every act of his from same perspective. After all, it is matter of my mother! You may differ from me, but then I too have freedom of my creative expressions.
Shahid Kapoor did this film for free.
If that be so, it is much more serious concern. What would prompt a professional actor to act for free in an anti-national film? To best of our knowledge, Shahid Kapoor has one-third shareholding in film. This is equally worrisome.
Do you deny that army was responsible of tremendous amount of atrocities and had torture camps? They raped women and killed innumerable. They would consider every Kashmiri as a terrorist. The insurgency was a response to this.
All allegations of army conducting rapes and atrocities have been found baseless. Army was simply fighting to death against insurgents. Even Basharat Peer admits that there were huge number of pro-Pakistanis who would shelter militants. The real frustration in all these fake allegations of human rights abuse against Army is because Army would get to each suspect house and nab the terrorists. Obviously, if you know there are 100 terrorists in a village of 200 people, any Army would be a fool to not monitor and do a door-to-door inspection.
And yes, if in India, one boos India, abuses India, eats from India but curses India, then security forces are duty-bound to deal such anti-nationalism with iron-hand. Had we not done so, even the shooting for the film “Haider” would not have been possible in the valley!
Who are you? Which regiment you belonged to? You are lying about being a soldier.
It does not matter who I am. I am not an individual. I am every soldier who fought in Kashmir, who died in Kashmir, who got handicapped in Kashmir. I am every mother who lost her son, every widow who lost her husband, every child who lost its father because he loved Bharat Mata more than anything else. I am Saurav Kalia who was tortured to death by militants. I am Lance Naik Hemraj who was beheaded by militants.
And from overwhelming support I received from civilians, I am sure I am every Indian who loves India and lives India. Not just like a nation, but Bharat Mata. A real mother. More than a real mother. And who can happily die for India tomorrow.
One more important point
I believe one divergence in understanding my review on Haider comes from a few differences in soldier mind and civilian mind.
- For civilian, especially connoisseurs of modern art and fine tastes, battle-field also is an art. An imagination. For soldier, its a reality. If there are bullet shots in a room filled with people, civilians would run away from the bullets. The soldier would jump towards the bullets. If bullet is being shot to person next to me, a civilian’s immediate instinct would be to be further away from bullet so that even by a miss of aim, he is not hurt. A soldier, on contrary, would jump to cover the person next. Because we are taught that in a battle, I am not important. The person next to me is more important. We are trained to sacrifice self for sake of the other person.That is why we cannot appreciate art for sake of appreciating. We don’t see how we enjoy it. We see, what does it lead to. Nation first, and then self. So if something is against nation, we cannot enjoy the art in that.
- Civilians often state that art and war should be separate. Just because we are at war with Pakistan, it does not imply we should stop cultural and sports relationships. War, or rather politics and culture must be separate. We soldiers fail to understand this logic. Do you want us to play football with those Pakistani soldiers who played football with head of our soldier? Or you want to play football with those who pay money for soldiers who played football with head of our soldier? Or you want to say that we are fighting our war with enemy because of our own desire and you are not on our side? Which means civilians of the country don’t consider us as family members. Are we then soldiers or paid mercenaries in your eyes?Why this duplicity? If someone tries to molest your sister or mother on street or murdered your father, will you play cricket with that neighbor? Even if matter is sub judice and as per your logic cricket and murder of father are separate things. Or will you sing duets with them or invite them to your family functions? Why have a separate set of standards for the nation? The only reason that can be given is that the nation is not your family, the country is not your mother. You simply say so because its fashion, trendy or because everyone else says so.We soldiers have this problem perhaps – that we cannot live with such duplicity. When we say Bharat Mata – we actually mean it is our mother. When we say Nation First – we actually mean nation comes above everything else. When we say, India is my family, we actually mean India is our family and we are the gatekeepers. We expect the rest of the family members inside to back us up, at least emotionally. Even if you don’t, we will continue to fight and die. But we do feel that we deserve some place, some respect, some emotions in your memories even after we are no more there.
Make movie on any subject. Play cricket with anyone. Sing, Dance, Run – do anything. Have happiest and best of lives. Have greatest fun. Enjoy best of luxuries. We really feel happy to see you happy. We are committed to even lay our lives to protect your happiness. Don’t worry and live life to fullest. We will face any temperature, any torture, any challenge, any bomb blast, any gun-firing, any missile for you. But do make us feel part of your family. Don’t choose to have fun with the remorseless enemy. Don’t choose to see art in insult of my Mother. We want nothing else from you.
For original review, please read http://agniveer.com/a-soldier-reviews-haider/