Haider ***Dir: Vishal Bhardwaj. With: Tabu, Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor. 161 mins. Cert: 15
The aptly surnamed Vishal Bhardwaj is Bollywood’s go-to guy for Shakespeare updates, having turned Macbeth into 2003’s Maqbool and Othello into 2006’s Omkara. Here, he completes a boxset by relocating Hamlet to chilly, militarised mid-90s Kashmir, with a hero (Shahid Kapoor) who returns home from studying revolutionary poetry to learn his dissident father has disappeared and his mother has taken up with a High Court official. There’s surprising sense in staging the Mousetrap and gravedigger scenes as musical numbers, and something compelling in how this backdrop forces the characters to adopt explicitly political positions: even its Laertes equivalent obliges his now journalist sister to swear her chastity on the Koran. Belatedly, it unravels like this Ophelia’s terribly literal scarf: the last-act deployment of rocket launchers reminded me of Arnie’s blunt-force Hamlet in Last Action Hero. Yet for two-and-a-half hours, it makes the text feel newly alive, bristly, radical – a palpable hit, in any language.
Haider opens in cinemas nationwide today.