Friday, 19 June 2020

Alternate Best Actor 2014: Shahid Kapoor in Haider

Shahid Kapoor did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character in Haider.

Haider is a largely effective re-telling of Hamlet, in some ways closer to The Bad Sleep Well in its first half, in it is loosely adapted, taking elements of the text to craft a more unique narrative, though the second half hews closer to the original text.

This "version" of Hamlet takes place instead in India in a time of political strife. This version does not begin with the death of Haider's, this version's Hamlet, father, rather we see his political imprisonment. His father not being a king though rather a doctor, though we still see the immediacy in which Haider's mother (Tabu) is finding comfort with her husband's brother Khurram Meer (Kay Kay Menon). Although the first half of the film is technically about Haider his role is somewhat limited as it is more focused in setting the political and personal tensions around him. Kapoor's performance is limited as a young man coming back from college to find his father. His performance evoking, effectively, a more generalized smolder through an intense glare fitting a man with only one thing on his mind. Kapoor shows a man who only cares about what happened to his father and nothing else. He creates that sense of the singular mindset and is effective in this even if the note is purposefully limited here. This only changes when a mysterious stranger comes into town Roohdaar (Irrfan Khan). The man being "the ghost" in this version, though alive as a haunted political prisoner who by chance survived when he and Haider's father were taken out for execution. The man giving Haider the knowledge he needs to break his sort of state of inaction. This reflected well within Kapoor's portrayal that senses the immediate grief in his expression but also the anger within it as he learns that his uncle was involved with his father's fate.

Kapoor makes an extreme, fitting, shift as we now enter into really the game of Hamlet, in this version with the interpretation that he is purposefully acting insane. We get this with the shaven head of Kapoor immediately after the revelation in a mad rant. Although less the traditional form and done here more as a performance art piece. I have no hesitation though to say that is brilliantly performed by Kapoor though as he throws himself into this curious rant. A rant that is so artfully done again as his whole manner is that of a slight dance, and is just so effectively done as both this act of seeming madness while also being so incisively potent as an attack on the situation he is living in. This scene only best within Kapoor's work as instead of the traditional "play within a play" we instead get a song and dance number pointed towards his uncle's guilt. Although I often hold reservations towards the Bollywood musical numbers which often lead films to a standstill, here it not only is intertwined within the story it creates a natural progression within it by it being within story. Kapoor is amazing in this sequence as he delivers on the song as he should in terms of just being captivating within the performance however he goes so much further than that. This as the intensity of the notion and the projection of the anger of the scene is portrayed so effectively by Kapoor. This as he wholly embodies within the performance the striking emotion with Haider as he doesn't just sing the song but rather makes it this full accusation towards his uncle within the song.

This is a case of the act of insanity though as we do otherwise then have scenes between Haider and the Ophelia equivalent Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor). These are very much traditionally romantic moments where the Kapoor's, neither related or married, do have a strong chemistry with one another. These moments are brief however Kapoor uses them well to suggest the young man we saw at the beginning of the film, and the chance for normalcy if he chose it. Of course knowing the play things don't turn out that way, though here with less cloak and dagger, and more machine guns/explosions. This leading to the climax to be a bit more abrupt and direct to say the least. For example instead of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern trying to have him covertly executed, they instead killed with rocks instead by Haider. I'll say though Kapoor is terrific though in becoming really the spirit of vengeance in these later moments. Finding really a balance between the false insanity we saw earlier and the single focused man who arrived home. Kapoor finding this sort of vicious determination as he goes about killing or trying to kill the traitors within his midst. Kapoor bringing sort of the right undercurrent of emotional desperation within the task, particularly in the moments of accusing his mother. Kapoor exuding in it the pain of the act flawlessly while also conveying the sort of thrill of being able to release his pent up anger. The climax actually doesn't leave too much time for reflection however I'll grant that Kapoor uses the time he does have effectively. This particularly in his final moment, which goes a bit differently, Kapoor silently expresses the conflict of the moment between revenge and clemency. Although the focus of this Hamlet is rather different, Kapoor delivers on giving a captivating, off-beat and powerful version of the oft played character.


Lucas Saavedra said...

Does anyone know where can I find Louis' 11-20 films of 1984 and 2015, and his 16-20 films of 2013? I remember he gave them recently, but I can't find them anywhere.

Michael McCarthy said...

I absolutely agree with everything in this review past the first paragraph. I still say that Kapoor could have done a lot more with the character in the first half of the film as I found the film around him to be quite compelling even in these scenes. It's a shame that this stage of his performance lasts so long, because his work in the latter half of the film is sensational.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What is the face paint supposed to be?

Michael McCarthy said...

Also since the results are coming up, for what it's worth I'm very much hoping Gyllenhaal keeps his win, though if someone were to unseat him I wouldn't mind Keaton, Fiennes or Gulpilil (or Oyelowo, but that seems unlikely).

Michael McCarthy said...

Lastly since no one's said it yet, Happy Juneteenth folks!

Bryan L. said...

Lucas: You can find all of those lists in Oscar Isaacs' review for A Most Violent Year.

Lucas Saavedra said...

Thank you, Bryan!

Louis Morgan said...


I think it's for the performance of the song, couldn't tell you more than that.


Hey guys!
Before Louis publishes the results, what is your TOP10 for best lead actress and supporting actress of 2014? Below is mine:

1º Suzanne Clément - Mommy
2º Jessica Chastain - A Most Violent Year
3º Julianne Moore - Maps to the Stars
4º Kim Dickens - Gone Girl
5º Katherine Waterston - Inherent Vice
6º Emma Stone - Birdman
7º Naomi Watts - Birdman
8º Lindsay Duncan - Birdman
9º Rene Russo - Nightcrawler
10º Kristen Stewart - Clouds of Sils Maria

1º Essie Davis - The Babaddok
2º Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl
3º Marion Cotillard - Two Days, One Night
4º Emily Blunt - Edge of Tomorrow
5º Anne Dorval - Mommy
6º Nina Hoss - Phoenix
7º Hilary Swank - The Homesman
8º Rinko Kikuchi - Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
9º Gugu Mbatha-Raw - Beyond the Lights
10º Jessica Chastain - The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Michael McCarthy said...

Rating and thoughts for Tabu? And Khan if you're not saving him?

John Smith said...

Louis, thoughts on the songs from Haider
'Bismil' is one of my favorite tracks from 2014.