By Arun Fulara. Posted on June 30, 2015
Stumbled upon this really interesting interview of Vishal Bhardwaj on The Review Monk, a really cool looking film site. Recently Vishal Bhardwaj's Shakespeare trilogy played at NYIFF which was followed by an insightful interview with the director by Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University, a Shakespearean scholar and an award-winning author.
Bhardwaj explains why he modified the ending of Haider from the original draft. For those who haven't seen the film, there are spoilers ahead.
Q. What about the end of the film? You decided to let Haider live. I study a lot of 16th and 17th century drama, and a lot of these plays – both in England and in Spain, which hold that terrific tradition of revenge drama, if you are the avenger like Haider, you die. There are probably 30 or 40 revenge plays, and in every one of them, the avenger dies at the end. If you go into Spain, every avenger in a Spanish revenge drama of the period, lives! It’s a matter of guilt or shame. And in a guilt culture like Catholic Spain, it’s a form of punishment for somebody to live, than the easy way out – which is to die. So when you were thinking about how you were going to end the film, did you go back and forth on the decision?
Vishal : Actually, to be honest, when I finished the first draft with my co-writer Basharat Peer, Hamlet killed his uncle and he died himself. I have a friend here who teaches screenwriting at Tisch. Her name is Sabrina Dhawan and she’s a fantastic script writer and has collaborated with me on many films. I sent her my script for her reaction and once she read it, she called me and said that everything was fine, but what kind of message is this in the context of Kashmir. Because they’ve been seeing violence for so long now -more than 35 years, that to leave this film on a note that there is no hope for them – only violence and death is going to be their future, would be wrong. I asked her the solution and she said she didn’t have one.
So we left it at that and I kept thinking about her point. And then we were on skype again and things came to a point where I was very irritated that I’ve got such a beautiful piece, and just for this one thing, I may have to drop this film. “What do you think I should do? Should Hamlet kill or what?” I asked. Suddenly as I said that, I realized. He doesn’t take revenge. He overcomes his feeling of revenge. It make him a bigger character! It leaves hope for Kashmir. For everything. And then we started looking back at the whole script.
When I’m writing a script, when I pick up a subject, the first thing I always look at, is the vision. Whenever I read a novel, I first read the last page to see what happens. Because if the resolution is stupid, then there’s no point in writing those 500 pages! I heard a line from a very big writer once, that films always close back from the end. So in Haider, when we decided that he wasn’t going to kill the uncle, we had to plant all these things earlier in the film, and that ‘violence begets violence’ line comes from there.
You can read the full interview here.