Posts Tagged ‘Haider Hussain Beig’

Still reading Interstellar? Done with all these? Welcome to the Club Nolaniana. And remember Haider from our ‘Haider on Haider‘ post? Well, he is back too.

InterstellarHaider

Beware, this post is rife with spoilers.

“The Bolt Beings are closing the Tesseract!”, warns TARS as Coop finally figures out how/what/why he is in the Tesseract in the first place. The reference to the Tesseract got me really excited, and not just because it’s one of my favorite bands (ha ha), but because it was my first introduction to begin to be able to fathom a higher dimension. It took me back to Carl Sagan’s soothing yet captivating voice in one of his original Cosmos episodes where he, patiently, explains different dimensions, Flatland style. This part of the film, the third act (or in Nolan terms, the Prestige), is the make or break part of the film. This separates the people who are absolutely going to be blown away by the film from the ones who will cringe at this representation of the inner workings of a Black Hole beyond the Event Horizon.

The third act was my favorite part of the film. To be honest, when he enters the Tesseract I actually went ‘Oh, come ON!’ in disbelief and disappointment. But, giving Nolan the benefit of the doubt, I wanted to wait. And I’m glad I did, because, this is the part where they had all the liberties with the science stuff. Because, as Romley puts it, no one knows what’s inside a Black Hole.  And, in my opinion, they did a beautiful fucking job with representing it. They, obviously, could have done much more and explored that unknown more. But that could have bordered to the complete extremities of the unknown and could have very easily turned into some pseudo-scientific psychedelic pedantic mumbo jumbo. Also, this was akin to the representation of the ‘higher beings’ in Contact who communicate with Jodie Foster through a vision of her dead father. And, hey, if Carl Sagan is cool with that representation, then it’s more than good enough for me. Although I don’t agree with him, after the screening, my boss put it quite funnily. He said “It was really nice how they tied it all together in the end and explained the story, even though it was SO fucking stupid”. That really cracked me up.

Throughout my childhood, my parents (especially my mother) slyly inception-ed me into falling in love with astronomy. I didn’t grow up on a diet of Goosebumps, Eragon and Harry Potter. I was fed heavy doses of astrophysics and space exploration encyclopedias, of which I understood absolutely nothing. But, my parents succeeded, since the first book I ever purchased out of my own will was “Can You Hear a Shout in Space?”, a lovely little book answering a lot of FAQ’s on space travel. I was set to become an astronaut. Dominic Cobb aint got nothing on my mom.  That is, until a sad afternoon in February 2003. The Columbia Space Shuttle had burnt up and disintegrated on re-entry and the world lost seven heroes. My mom walked into my room where I was probably building the nth spaceship with legos, and gave me a sad shake of the head. “Not happening bro”, she said (I’m paraphrasing). My interests dramatically shifted after that, and Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll happened (minus the sex and drugs, I was 11 for crying out loud!). I started playing music, since my mom had a guitar lying…. Holy shit this woman has pretty much manipulated me into who I am. I need to have a serious talk with her. Astronomy took a back seat, now it was about barely passing exams and playing music. That is, until my last two years of high school where my Higher Level Physics optional topic was Astrophysics. And to date, that and Literature have been the only two courses I have ever given a fuck about. It instilled the same sense of wonder in me, that I would have staring into the storm of Jupiter in one of those encyclopedias as an 8 year old. I wanted to do something; I wanted to excel at this one thing, to have a purpose to at least doing ONE of my IB courses with any real conviction. And I did, I scored a perfect 7/7 on that paper. That also triggered me into undertaking one of the dumbest decisions of my life, studying Aerospace Engineering at university.

Astrophysics you idiot! Not Engineering! That’s what you should’ve done!  Ask me why? Because I figured, to be practical and to be ‘financially stable’, engineering would be the way to go. And hey, it’s Aerospace, so it’s kind of related right? What an idiot. Here I am, five years later, still degree-less, a lot more cynical, and giving up all hopes of ever making any money, by deciding to become a filmmaker. Maybe this is the bolt beings punishing me for not dreaming anymore.

This is why Interstellar is such an important film. I never, ever, ever, cry watching films. But I managed to shed a few solitary tears while watching Interstellar. Not because of the emotional high points of the film (which Nolan has beautifully crafted), but because of an inexplicable feeling of being overwhelmed by everything. “This is my childhood! Why did you take it away from me!” I wanted to yell out at imaginary villains. When the truth is that the villain is inside me.  I was the one that started chasing after green eyed girls, rather than asking someone in my Calculus class “But how are infinity plus seven and infinity equal? Yeh kya hai???”. I was the one that stopped living a normal human life after a terrible heartbreak and locked myself in a room with a laptop and a high speed internet connection and just watched film after film after film. I forgot what the Tsiokolvsy’s rocket equation was, I forgot why we need to add a J2 perturbation to some orbital equations, or even what the names of the crew members of Apollo 14 were.  And I am absolutely not alone in this. There are countless versions of myself all over the world, and especially in India, who are conveniently shoved into boxes of engineering/medicine/law at a very young age. Financial security and ‘respectable job’ take precedence over talent and wonder. I know it’s too late for me now, but why can’t we let the newer generations dream a little more? Just a little more, before we bolt and rivet them into mechanical versions of themselves, set to serve one giant master. One giant wheel to be a cog in. All of my heroes from the space exploration world were from the 60’s/70’s. None from the 80’s.90’s or 2000’s. That is fucking sad. Who am I left to be inspired by? Someone who’s contribution to the world is measured by what his/her net worth is? Fuck. That. I refuse. I’d rather look up to a filmmaker like Christopher Nolan, who creates, even if fictional, worlds and stories that expand minds and inspire the glint of wonder behind our stone set eyes.

The film does not come without its flaws, of course. But what it left me with is much bigger than any miniscule anal thought I had during the film (“Heh, nice impact toughness on the ceramics of that ranger, am I right?” *wink wink*). The film is much, much bigger than the sum of its parts. And it has a LOT of delectable parts. Watch it, and be inspired. Let it talk to the ethereal child in you.

It’s time to stop fearing the unknown. It’s time to embrace the fact that it’s much more wondrous to NOT know, than to create a meaning that is convenient for us. Such is the beauty of science, it doesn’t judge. And it does not require you to believe in a certain god or be of a certain color or caste. It just requires you to question everything, especially what science itself brings forth. And it’s inclusive. You don’t have to be a genius. If I can be adequately interested in it and understand it, anyone can.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of the greatest human beings that ever lived. Find out who it is, if you don’t know already.

“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a Parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”

 – Haider Hussain Beig

(Haider Hussain Beig is a 23 year-old filmmaker based out of Netherlands. When he’s not alienating close friends with painful film gyaan, he dabbles in Aerospace Engineering. You can check out his stuff here)

Seen Haider yet? Naah? What are you doing? Go, book your tickets first. Coming back to the film, if Vishal Bhardwaj can get two Salmans, we aren’t far behind. We got two Haiders. One is his, other is ours. So here is our Haider on his Haider.

Our Haider Hussain Beig is a 23 year old filmmaker based out of Netherlands. When he’s not alienating close friends with painful film gyaan, he dabbles in Aerospace Engineering. You can check out his stuff here. This is first post here.

To read our previous post on the film, “Haider : Uncertain, Complex, Asymmetric…Because the screenplay is Kashmir”, click here.

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Heavy handed exposition usually kills a film for me. It could be a tasteless voiceover or a redundant character painstakingly ear-fucking the audience with drab explanations of already convoluted plot-points. Which brings me to one of my favorite ‘did you catch that?’ Moments in the film. It occurs when Khurram is being led into an abandoned house and he notices ‘Yeh toh Kaul Saab ka ghar hai.’ Then a brief exchange ensues about the whereabouts of ‘Kaul Saab’, finally coming to the conclusion that he has ‘shifted’ to Bombay.

This was an in passing reference to the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland. It perfectly captures the nonchalance of the characters who, putting it crudely, have different issues to deal with now. And perhaps are still dealing with the brutal and horrific ousting of their Hindu neighbours as a mere migration to the big city. This is just one of the many examples of sheer brilliance in storytelling by someone who I would not have expected less of. Best of all, I didn’t feel like I was being explained a point of view or thrown facts at that I was supposed to ingest like a frustrated teenager in a History lesson. I knew most facts about the region and the socio-political situation already, and never once did I feel the need to internally sigh with a ‘pata hai bhai, gyan dena band karo‘. And trust me when I say I know a lot about Kashmir. Because unlike most of us, I have not been fed frustratingly conflicting facts from different sources of news, I have lived them in my own little way.

I was born in Delhi to a German mother and a Kashmiri father, who decided to name me Haider. It’s one of those unique ‘this-guy-is-definitely-a-Shia’ names. I guess like most things my father does, he wanted to be different. And I was happy with that. I personally don’t know any Haiders. Until late last year, when I heard Vishal Bhardwaj was making his third Shakespeare adaptation on Hamlet, called Haider. Same name, same spelling. Not Hyder, Heydar, or Haidar. HAIDER. F-U-C-K-ed-M-E.

Putting it simply, it’s unnerving to see your name in posters, on billboards, as a trending hashtags of some of my cinematic idols on the big screen. In the ticket line at the box office I turned around as a reflex to my name being called out by impatient ticket buyers. And let’s not get started with the jokes that only true friends and elementary school goers can come up with; ‘How does it feel to have Shahid Kapoor in you?’, or ‘Dude! You gave Hansal Mehta fulfilling sleepless nights!’.

What put me to a melancholic ease though, was the name being pronounced in a Kashmiri accent. It took me back to an angry grandmother yelling out ‘Huhder!’ at my mischief. It’s sad that it takes a great like VB to put in the careful attention to detail to make sure that stars make the proper effort into not caricaturizing the dialect. From Shahid Kapoor’s ‘Sirinagar’ to Shraddha Kapoor’s endearing ‘Luvved, Givved, Suckked, Fu..’. They were almost pitch perfect. And even if some may not agree, full points for the effort.

The dialogues, their delivery, and timing, were just a revelation. Blending in Shakespeare’s cunning words with the heavy backdrop of the ‘Kashmir Issue’. Nothing felt pedantic, heavy handed, apologetic, expositional, out of place, or forced. It was as it should have been. Nothing more, nothing less.

The supporting cast was mostly played by locals, and they were spot-fucking on. There was no need for windy character back stories. From Janus’ two faced Salman and Salman, to Khurram’s born-again militant henchman. They could all have separate films based on them and I would pay good money to watch those too. It’s heartening to see such a wide pool of talent scattered all across the country. WAKE THE FUCK UP, BOLLYWOOD!

Shraddha Kapoor’s work was a welcome surprise. I wouldn’t say her performance was perfect, but three films in, she’s already giving her contemporaries a hard time. Aloof, innocent and gullible, Arshia was what I would call a perfect representation of Kashmir in the early parts of the militancy. It resonated, or was rather amplified by Tabu’s Ghazala, as a more worn out, mature, but also much more grey representation of Kashmir in the time the film is set in, the glorious mid-nineties. It seems like Tabu is the only actor that can play a self destructive feminine character in a Shakespearean tragedy to such seasoned perfection. And to Shahid Kapoor, all I want to say is, Ghanta-Ghar in Lal Chowk will never be the same for anyone again. They better fucking throw all the big (even if bogus) awards at him.

Never have I seen a film capture the reality of the situation so beautifully. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography is a result of what would happen of each character we’re given a brush to paint out exactly what they see. Each frame was a representation of these personal works of art. It was almost akin to the wounded beauty of the valley. You are one of my heros. I was more excited about seeing your name attached to the film than VB’s. After Ship of Theseus, and now this, I can’t wait to see much much more work from you!

Finally, to the master himself. Vishal Bhardwaj. I might need a series of blog posts to talk about your work. And I’m sure, as I have also read, there is enough information, analysis, discourse and dissection of your work already. I’d rather not add to the pile. I’ll stick to what stuck out most for me, the score. I had listened to the songs that had come out in the run up to the release quite a lot. My favorite being, of course, Bismil. Though what really captured my entranced attention was the score. So, so, …. Fuck I’m out of adjectives that would do justice. I hope the score will be out soon. I know what music I’m going to write to now.

I have never lived for more than two months in Kashmir. Most of my upbringing has been in Delhi, though I have visited Kashmir every year of my life since I was born, most of those years being the most dangerous. I have only fond memories. I have never once seen a terrorist/mujahid/militant/freedom-fighter/jihadist. And it’s not like I lived in a cordoned off posh area. In fact my family lives in one of the rather impoverished Shia neighbourhoods in Srinagar. Though that is not to say, that the distant sound of gunshots and bomb explosions was not a common sound. In my own way, a part of my brain would register them as the sound of Diwali fire crackers, and things would be festive in my mind again. I’ve had the most tranquil moments of reflection on the banks of the Nigeen lake, on a grass patch between abandoned houseboats. I’ve cried my eyes out laughing with my cousins at the millionth viewing of Andaz Apna Apna on local cable channels. And don’t even get me started on wazwan. The closest I’ve come to ‘danger’ was a scooter ride back from football practice, dodging a hail of stones, swerving around burning tyres, and slyly detouring to my aunts house who lived nearby. I’ve always thought of that memory as a rather funny adventure. My worried wailing mother on the other hand, did not.

On the contrary, I’ve heard personal first hand accounts of friends, acquaintances and even close cousins (mostly young men), about the dangers they’ve had to endure. From both the militants and the army. Some accounts are so chilling that I’d rather not get into them, for your sake and mine. ‘Jab do haathi ladte hain, neeche ghaas hi kuchli jaati hai‘. It saddens me to see tasteless Anti-India graffiti vomited on ancient walls. Though their distrust and disdain for the AFSPA and conversely the Armed forces, is not without reason. There are bad apples everywhere, even in Kashmir. I recommend Ashwin Kumar’s two brilliant documentaries – Inshallah, Football and Inshallah, Kashmir. They will show you a side of the story the mainstream media conveniently redacts. I’m not an expert on the subject and I’m not foolish enough to think that I might even have something close to an answer. If anything, having a foot in both worlds, has given me a rather confusing point of view, so I usually stay out of Kashmir based bar-conversations. Plus, whenever anyone looks at me for an explanation, I conveniently say, ‘I don’t know bro, I’m German’. Which is why, I love this film too. I went in as an outsider, and actually learnt a few things I did not know. Thank you Basharat Peer, I’m no one to challenge a reputed journalist and writer who, by the way, happens to be from Kashmir.

Haider is by far the most realistic depiction of Kashmir I’ve seen on screen so far. That includes Aamir Bashir’s heartbreaking Harud.

It’s a perfect balance that knocks you out of your seat in a jolt of energy and then in an instant makes you slow-down and wonder. The only think I would have liked to see more of was a bit more on the exodus of the Kashmiri Pundits. Though, the film takes place in a time when the people have ‘gotten over’ it.

The first scene I ever wrote was of a conversation between two friends on the banks of the Nigeen Lake, my spot of tranquility, hiding from the world, sharing a cigarette, something I’ve done a countless number of times. Since then I’ve rewritten, thrown out, written again, and rewritten it again. I think it’s time to finally finish it. Thank you Vishal Bhardwaj.

To everyone out there still deciding, please watch this film. It’s the real ‘Bang Bang’. I really hope it releases in Kashmir. Last I heard, my local cinema in Hawal Chowk was still an army bunker.

Haider Hussain Beig