Nawazuddin Siddiqui gives masterful performance, Anurag Kashyap impresses in chilling revenge drama

Nawazuddin Siddiqui gives masterful performance, Anurag Kashyap impresses in chilling revenge drama

Haddi stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui as a transgender out for revenge against a corrupt politician played by Anurag Kashyap.

Director: Akshat Ajay Sharma

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Ila Arun, Saurabh Sachdeva, Rajesh Kumar, Ivanka Das, and Vipin Sharma

Where to watch: Zee5
Rating: 3.5 stars

Haddi is a throwback to the style of cinema Anurag Kashyap and Sroram Raghavan introduced to Hindi films close to two decades ago. It is a gritty, chilling, stylish revenge drama starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui in sublime form and a surprisingly menacing and convincing Anurag Kashyap (who needs to act more). While Haddi has its flaws and lags in the middle, its performances, beautiful cinematography, and amazing background score carry it, making it a more-than-watchable experience.

Haddi is the story of the titular transgender (Nawazuddin), who is much more than she seems. As we learn about Haddi’s past in intermittent flashbacks, we are introduced to strongman politician Pramod Ahlawat (Anurag) and realise that she is out to get him. Just how and why remains to be seen. The film takes us on a unique journey into the world of India’s kinnar society as well as the underbelly of the worst kind of smuggling there is.

Talking about Haddi’s ploy would mean giving away one spoiler too many. So let’s talk about the technical aspects. The film hinges on its performances and the world it creates. Director Akshat Ajay Sharma has done a commendable job in creating a new, intriguing world where crime meets desperation – the world of India’s marginalised transgenders. And he has done it in a way that is realistic yet cinematically appealing.

The background score and cinematography then breathe life into Sharma’s world, making it come alive. The choice of score is very Kashyap-like in its approach, almost bordering on the cinematic langauge he created for films like Gangs of Wasseypur and Raman Raghav 2.0. But the pacing of the film lags in parts. The narative becomes a little incoherent at times, leaving audiences to fill gaps in themselves. That takes away from what could have been a near-perfect film.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is simply sublime and chilling as Haddi aka Harika. The actor yet again shows why he is so highly regarded in the acting world as he delivers a performance for the ages. The way he adopts Harika’s mannerisms, body language and vocal modulations so perfectly should be a lesson to actors. Taking on a challenging role, the thespian ensures that the performance never turns into a caricature or spoof of the transgender community It is as human a depiction as a transgender has ever had in Indian cinema. Aiding him very ably is Nawaz’s frequent collaborator Anurag Kashyap. The director gives his career-best performance making Pramod Ahlawat very easily hatable while maintaing a sort of sick grace that is hard to grasp. But despite being a self-confessed ‘reluctant actor’, Kashyap manages that quite well.

Of the support cast, Ila Arun and Saurabh Sachdeva stand out playing two transgender characters on the oppsite ends of morality. Zeeshan Ayyub’s short role as Nawaz’s love interest has been written well and performed even better. The actor brigs to life the man in love with Harika very sensitively and organically. The tender moments between Irfan and Harika are so deftly captured that it merits special mention.

Haddi is a promising effort but also a tale of what could have been. While director Akshat Ajay Sharma has done a fine job in weaving the complex narrative together, the film is still somewhat of a missed opposrtunity given the firepower at hand. Yet, it is immensely watchable and if it wasn’t so crude, I would call it enjoyable as well.

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