Is Haider (the movie) a test of nationalism?

Me: “Did you watch Haider? It is a good movie.”

A family member: “No, I didn’t. I heard it is an anti-national movie.”

I was shocked by the response! This wasn’t one of those hate-mongering, ultra-nationalists people in abundance in India these days; this was a sober, soft-spoken, family member who genuinely believed what he said.

When the movie Haider released, I wanted to watch it because I wanted to see how well Vishal Bhardwaj did the Hamlet adaptation. When I read about it being ‘sympathetic’ to Muslims and critical of Army, I dismissed it as a fiction created by media for some masala, and still wanted to watch it. When I did watch it, I could understand what those articles meant – it was a narrative different than the usual ones we have heard in mainstream media and writing. I chalked it down again to the over-zealousness of media and Facebook-citizens wanting to create masala. I was glad that I watched the movie, and promptly forgot those Facebook posts and articles.

When I remember the movie (my daughters play the songs of the movie everyday), I don’t remember the narrative that much (fortunately or unfortunately); what I remember is the well-crafted storyline with layered storytelling, super acting, breathtaking cinematography, brilliant music, lyrics and singing, and of course the cleverness with which hamlet storyline has been incorporated.

As Voltaire said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” The speaker in this TED video puts it very eloquently, there are dangers in knowing a single story about a region/culture/people. As a nation, if we can’t let multiple stories play out, if we can’t get out of political correctness and let moral correctness play out, we are not going to be a nation worth its name. And we can’t claim to be a nationalist if we behave like ultra-nationalists or ultra-populists.

I am passionate about my country. I take this as my definition of nationalism and this makes me a strong nationalist. And my nationalism is strong and broad enough to understand an alternate narrative; it can tolerate a point of view that is different than mine (even when I don’t agree with it). It can sympathize with those who suffer, without checking their religion or region.

What about you?

One thought on “Is Haider (the movie) a test of nationalism?

  1. Introduction to Poetry

    –Billy Collins

    I ask them to take a poem
    and hold it up to the light
    like a color slide

    or press an ear against its hive.

    I say drop a mouse into a poem
    and watch him probe his way out,

    or walk inside the poem’s room
    and feel the walls for a light switch.

    I want them to waterski
    across the surface of a poem
    waving at the author’s name on the shore.

    But all they want to do
    is tie the poem to a chair with rope
    and torture a confession out of it.

    They begin beating it with a hose
    to find out what it really means.


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