Says Vishal Bhardwaj who empathises with the protagonist of his next, a Shakesperean tragedy on Kashmiri politics and the Oedipus complex.
How was Kashmir?
Tragically beautiful, and after almost four decades, a film was shot there completely.
Was it necessary to film Haider there?
Kashmir is Kashmir. You don't find the topography elsewhere, nor the Chinar trees. So many films have come out of strifetorn Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, but not Kashmir, the biggest tragedy in our political history. Its politics is the perfect backdrop for my Haider.
But between the sub-zero temperature, the threats of violence and locals disrupting shoots, was it worth the trouble?
It's still a lovely place with lovely people who are obsessed with Bollywood. Some of the chaos was caused simply because the locals were so excited to have us in their midst. But unlike in UP and Bihar, they did not pass lewd remarks and even the 5000-strong crowd was disciplined.
Mirror had reported that a shoot at the Kashmir University campus had to be cancelled when the mob erupted over the national flag being burnt?
The flag was never burnt. The trouble at the University was caused because of a misunderstanding. Soon after, we were shooting at another college and needed a local to play a court typist and speak a few words in Kashmiri. After the shot was canned, my assistant told me that the secretary of the University Union wanted to meet me. He turned out to be Junaid, our junior artiste, who admitted that he had taken the bit role to ascertain for himself that our film did not misrepresent Kashmir. Later, he and other student leaders apologised to me and invited us back to the University campus. Our schedule did not permit us to return but from then we were their guests.
Will Haider complete the Shakespearean trilogy for you?
It will complete the trilogy of tragedies. After Maqbool and Omkara, I'd taken a break from Shakespeare but then decided to return and complete Hamlet before someone else ruined it. The choice was between Hamlet and King Lear. Hamlet won because I wanted to set this film in Kashmir. Besides the political intrigues, the story also has its sexual conflicts. In Macbeth/Maqbool, we had a woman torn between two men, in Othello/Omkara, a man crazed by suspicion and jealousy brought on by his wife's beauty. In Hamlet/Haider, it's a man torn between his young love and his mother. The film will subtly touch on the Oedipus complex.
I could still adapt it. I may even do a trilogy on Shakespear-ean comedies.
What made Shahid Kapoor the best choice for Hamlet?
After Kaminey, we wanted to do another film and one day Shahid jokingly told me that he'd even go bald to work with me. I replied saying that if he was serious, I'd make Hamlet with him. Men love their hair more than women. And both Saif (Ali Khan) and Shahid loved their long hair. (Smiles) As a filmmaker I like to take actors out of their comfort zones, their vanity.
But Shahid didn't go completely bald?
He did, and we shot on the streets of Srinagar afterwards, without anyone 'leaking' out the bald look. In Haider you will see him with normal hair, really long hair, the buzz cut and then he turns mad and goes bald.
What was Shahid's reaction when confronted with his bald image?
There was a lot of discussion on the buzz cut. The hairstylist, Shahid and I started at 11 pm, measuring out his hair, wondering how much to cut, and he finally got the look at 3 am. Four hours later, he was on the sets and the response to his new look was so good that when it was time for him to go completely bald, Shahid just went to his hotel room, shaved his head himself and returned to the sets looking super cool.
Shahid's creative surrender impressed me so much that I now want to make many more films with him. Maha Kaminey is just one of them; it'll take the story of Kaminey into a fantasy world populated by gangsters. Everyone creates heroes, I love creating new villains. Being bad is fun and a true reflection of real life because none of us are all black or white.
So the creative differences that cropped up during Kaminey are over?
The only actor I had creative differences with was Aamir Khan during Mr Mehta & Mrs Singh and that was at the scripting level. Once I approach an actor with a script, I'm so clear about what I want that they wouldn't dare to have any creative differences with me.
Have you met any Haiders?
Many of them. There's a Haider in me too, who has been waiting to avenge my father's loss, even after all these years. He was a poet too and died in an accident. I've decided to dedicate the film to him. My mother shifted with me to Mumbai, she's been living with me all these years.
You have a son too...
(Smiles) Yes, Asmaan is 18. It's a difficult age and he does stress me out. But now he is going to New York to study at the School of Visual Arts. We both like gangster films but he hasn't developed a taste for European cinema yet. His all-time favourite film is Maqbool and his idols are Pankaj Kapur and Irrfan Khan.
Talking of Irrfan, he is reuniting with Tabu in Haider, a decade after Maqbool. Have they and their equation changed since?
They have both grown as actors. They are so subtle now, and more truthful on screen. And on a personal level, they fight less now.
Buzz is, that you will no longer produce films that you are not directing?
That's right, a lot of energy goes into making these films and it hurts if they don't do well. I'm not saying that all my directorials do well, but then I look at them as a creative expression rather than a commercial venture.
What if you like Abhishek Chaubey's next script?
I know I will, since he is my extension, but I won't produce it.
What about Ishqiya 3?
Not happening since Dedh Ishqiya wasn't accepted.
How did the offer to direct an opera come about?
Jean Luc Choplin, the director of Paris Chatelet's theatre, had seen Maqbool and Omkara, and wanted me to direct a four-and-a-half long Wagner opera on a Shakespearean play. But I don't know German. So they suggested I adapt A Flowering Tree. I agreed since it's in English and just two hours, with opera artistes like Pauline Pfeiffer, puppets, a 100-piece orchestra and a choir. Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola is also being adapted as a Broadway musical in Hindi with English subtitles. They went crazy for the pink buffalo, the master-servant relationship, the peasant unrest. There's also talk of a Monsoon Wedding Broadway musical for which I have to visit the US in June.