It is still a Thursday but the weekend releases have started pouring in. And while this is majorly the Jawan weekend(which I will get to soon), I decided to watch and review the new Hindi film Haddi which is now streaming on Zee5 starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Anurag Kashyap. These were already big names associated with the project that instantly made me curious but I was more curious to watch Nawaz who is coming off multiple duds. Call it his creative choices(or the lack of it), barring Afwaah to an extent, his other films have disappeared without a trace be it Jogira Sara Ra Ra or the Amazon Exclusive film Tiku Weds Sheru wherein he felt totally miscast. It was literally one of the worst slumps in his career that he needed to address and crawl out of.
As far as Haddi was concerned, the look of Nawaz was the talk of the town. Essaying the role of a transgender isn’t easy but the moment Nawaz was cast in that role, I knew that it would be something special. This role seemed more tailor made for Nawaz to bring him back in his element from the romantic lead that he had been essaying in his previous two outings. But the question remained, would Nawaz pull it off with aplomb given his recent dismal form? As always, I skipped the trailer of Haddi and decided to venture into the film blind, as it is a beautiful experience to remain surprised by the film while also giving the film a fighting chance to impress. So then does Haddi make for a compelling watch, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Haddi follows the story of a transgender who decides to join a gang who are involved in multiple illegal activities. What is her purpose? The story here is layered and complex and takes its time to unfold, almost testing the patience of the viewers. But if you can sit through its first 40 odd minutes then there are rewards to be had! The screenplay standing at about 130 odd minutes does have layers and layers to it, that sets it apart from a regular revenge drama. It is tense, gory, dark and quite compelling and unique with its approach.
The drama does open on an interesting note given that the viewers are provided with no real reference of the conversations floating early on, nor are they acquainted with the baggage that the characters have been carrying till that point in the film. It was a challenging start wherein you are left to decipher the lines and the kind of illegal activities that are being carried out. Now many viewers would feel disconnected and there is a chance that many might bail out early on in the film. And the reason being that these events carry on for about 40 odd minutes where the makers constantly challenge the viewers to decode the proceedings.
Amidst this, some things that are clear are that the protagonist is a transgender embroiled in ‘some’ illegal activities who decides to join a transgender gang known to carry out more of such activities as a group. At this point, you aren’t aware of these activities but you are introduced to the main characters in question. This also includes a loud mouthed local politician who seems to be the kingpin of these activities. Soon after a strange turn of events, the makers decide to introduce an extended flashback that makes the entire picture crystal clear.
The proceedings are layered and tense right throughout with the right kind of emotions that are sprinkled in the screenplay. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the representation of transgender characters(along with the protagonist) handled with utmost sensitivity so much so that you are invested in the journey of the protagonist. The lull before the storm is indicative of a big twist at the halfway mark that turns out to be so brutal and it does leave you heartbroken and fuming, thus further rooting for the protagonist. Yet, the second half which could so easily have been a generic one given the situation, continues to be layered and complex while consistently being cerebral in its approach.
I quite enjoyed the subtle twists and turns in the second hour(minus some of its loopholes) which was indicative that the writers wished to stay away from the regular tropes of a revenge saga. It is indulgent and consistently tense that makes a fascinating watch. Even the events leading up to the final act deserve a huge round of applause for his buildup and execution. However, this is where the film falters as well given that the stage was perfectly set to wrap up the tale in the stage that was set in s scene right before the final act. Instead, the writers opt for a ‘Bollywood-esque’ ending which kind of threatens to derail the film momentarily(which was eventually saved by a vintage Nawaz). It was a case of over writing whereas the fact was that the stakes were already raised a scene earlier. But taking nothing away from the screenplay which is layered and complex and makes for a compelling watch.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are cerebral and make for a wonderful impact in the screenplay. The music beautifully blends with the drama and represents the different moods at various junctures in the screenplay. I absolutely loved the BGM too which was a right mix of style and emotions, and I found myself grooving to it more often that not. The cinematography is excellent, setting up some dark frames that is representative of the tone of the drama.
The editing is wonderful in the second hour that allows the tension to buildup across many scenes. But in the first hour, certain scenes are cut abruptly that often kill the building tension that existed in various scenes. Director Akshat Ajay Sharma makes an impressive debut and I liked the fact that there were no half measures in his approach. He did go all out with his skills of showcasing gore or even nudity that adds to the authenticity of the drama. You can make out a tinge of Anurag Kashyap in his filmmaking(not surprising as he had assisted Anurag in many films) and given this subject, it lead to an engaging watch with the right kind of emotions thrown in. The direction was pretty good here.
The performances are truly high class by the ensemble cast. Resh Lamba as Malkan and Saharsh Kumar Shukla as Jogi have their moments to shine. Ivanka Das as Surri is a talented actor and was impressive here, and I hope the film industry now transcends her in different variety of roles, something that I shall call progress and a huge step forward. Vipin Sharma as Bibek and Ila Arun as Amma light up the screen with their wonderful presence and it was a pleasure watching them onscreen.
Rajesh Kumar as Sattu is outstanding to the core, showing shades of sincerity even in a grey character which is a sign of a great actor. To think that he is the same person who portrayed the iconic role of Roshesh Sarabhai, and now also easily transforming in the character of Sattu just shows the range that he possesses as an actor. Shriidhar Dubey as Chunna is first rate and does a good job as well. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub as Irfan is wonderfully restrained while being completely earnest and sincere with his performance. Saurabh Sachdeva as Inder is outstanding with his mannerisms and body language and he is wonderful to witness onscreen.
Anurag Kashyap as Pramod is menacing but with a streak of humour and he excels in his act. But the show stopper is Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is back with a bang and how! As Haddi, you delivers a powerful and a heartfelt act scoring with his body language while never trying to hard to impress. The approach to the character was that of a female and that is what made his performance standout(by not being caricaturish). Even his searing speech in the final act steadies a wobbly boat and eventually comes out a winner. This is perhaps his best performance in recent times in what was a towering act of the highest order. This is the Nawaz that he have known over the years!
Haddi is a brilliantly layered and complex gangster drama with high class performances featuring a vintage Nawazuddin Siddiqui, that makes for a compelling watch. Available on Zee5.