Director: Akshat Ajay Sharma
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Ila Arun, Saurabh Sachdeva, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Rajesh Kumar, Shriidhar Dubey and Vipin Sharma
Where: Streaming on Zee 5
Rating: 3.5 stars
As an earnest admirer of the actor’s craft and his finesse to deliver in every role he undertakes, irrespective of its duration, the format he is seen in or the co-stars he is paired with, for the longest time, I’ve been of the humble opinion that Nawazuddin Siddiqui can and will do justice, if he was to ever play a trans character.
With his latest outing Haddi, that is now streaming on Zee 5, I’m happy to inform that not only has the actor completely aced his character as Haddi/Harika, you’re likely to believe that his character is for real.
In a smart storytelling move, director Akshat Ajay Sharma deploys the transgender community to tell a gritty tale of violence and crime, which he has co-written with Adamya Bhalla.
Set against the threat of underhand land-grabbing deals in the country’s National Capital Region, Haddi begins with setting the stage by mentioning how the third gender is blessed with unique superpowers. From the very first scene, he affirms that the trans community’s blessings are a gift of God, their curses spell doom but their revenge is inevitable.
In the present day, Haddi operates in the midst of transgenders, who work under the clout and influence of scheming politico Pramod Ahlawat (Anurag Kashyap). Together, they run a racket of every thinkable criminal offense in the book. Haddi wins everyone’s confidence with his abilities and soon rises up to become invincible. But is he here for power or is here to settle a score?
Ably aided by rousing musical score by Rohan Pradhan and Rohan Gokhale, Haddi smartly infuses mythological references to substantiate the importance and existence of the trans community. Borrowing the tale of Iravan, the son of Arjuna from Mahabharata, who married Mohini, the avatar of Lord Krishna, for a day before he was eventually sacrificed, the film carries a layered screenplay that is edited crisply to a run-time of two hours and fourteen minutes. However, my gripe lies with the climax that seems pretty hurried and doesn’t entirely provide closure to what is otherwise an extremely engaging watch.
Nevertheless, you look past all the technicalities to revel in another fine performance by Nawazuddin. The scenes which reflect his transition from Haddi to Harika are done so beautifully, you’re never allowed to feel the character’s pain but instead you witness the magical discovery of a woman. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub is empathic and charming as Harika’s lover Irfan. Their scenes together make for some of the film’s most touching moments. Ila Arun is fabulous as Revathi Amma, the towering matriarch of her gharana. Kashyap commands a solid presence as Ahlawat. Although the Haryanvi diction seems inconsistent. Saurabh Sachdeva, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Rajesh Kumar, Shriidhar Dubey and Vipin Sharma add further heft to the plot with their respective characters. This is certainly a well-cast film.
In totality, Haddi is engaging and one that will leave you in further awe of the excellence that Nawazuddin commands despite his repertoire of ground-breaking roles.