When the poster of Haddi was released with Nawazuddin Siddiqui dressed as a transgender, it really piqued my curiosity, hoping that the film will unearth the crime mafia that some transgenders secretly run. But, when you actually sit down to watch the film, it turns out to be a lot more than that. Using the transgender community as a clever and intriguing trope to expose the nexus of criminal underbelly operating throughout the capital city, director Akshat Ajay Sharma weaves interesting elements and delivers this gritty and intoxicating tale of vengeance, violence, power and retribution.
There are trigger-happy men on killing spree, blood splashing everywhere and it gets gory with every action sequence. Sadly though, the trailer gives away most of the story. Yet, Haddi manages to keep you hooked and invested. What fascinated me the most was Nawaz’s transition— it’s so elaborate and minute details are taken care of. The recent OTT show Taali showed something similar with Sushmita Sen’s character going through the same process, but Haddi gets a slight edge over Taali perhaps because stakes are higher with Nawaz dressing as a transgender, and quite convincingly.
Set against the backdrop of the modern ruins in NCR’s Gurgaon and Noida, Haddi story starts with a Harika (Nawaz), a trans woman telling an old man how the blessings of her community are considered powerful, their curse, scary and their revenge, even more frightening. And switch to the next scene, we are shown Haddi (also played by Nawaz) who has moved from his hometown of Allahabad to join a gang of transgenders and cross-dressers headed by a gangster-turned politician Pramod Ahlawat (Anurag Kashyap), who runs multiple illegal businesses. Soon, Haddi reaches the top of the criminal chain, but the fire to avenge his family wronged by mobsters never dies.
The 134-minutes long twisted revenge drama is well-intentioned, fast-paced and written with utmost care to not trivialize the transgender community. There’s special attention paid to the screenplay and unfolding of events, which is further enhanced with beautifully etched-out characters. Co-written by Sharma and Adamya Bhalla, the film presents a compelling story and it’s the nuances in writing that do the magic.
Nawaz aptly conveys the pain
As for performances, Haddi can boast about them without any hesitation. Nawaz makes you believe in Harika in the most beautiful way. The way he adapts the body language, dialect and overall persona of a transgender is on-point. Even as Haddi, you sense pain in his eyes, and he does justice to both the parts equally. Haddi presents Nawaz’s versatility in the most powerful yet vulnerable way and you’d love it. One of the moving subplots includes Harika’s love story with Irfan (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), and it is heartwarming to see such sensitive portrayal being handled with so much maturity. Even in the romantic scenes, they don’t make you feel awkward but extremely comfortable.
A confident cast
Though Anurag Kashyap has often been in front of the camera as an actor, his portrayal of a ruthless politician in Haddi can easily be called by far his best performance. He brings his A game forward, and it’s evident that even in front of Nawaz, who is known to play such characters with so much ease, Kashyap looks absolutely confident. There’s one particular sequence when Kashyap and his men kill Amma’s entire clan and amid endless bloodshed, he sits calmly with his headsets on, listening to music and even grooving. It’s bone-chilling and anger-inducing at the same time. Ila Arun as Amma is so powerful and commands screen presence like no other. Saurabh Sachdeva delivers an earnest performance, though he often gets sidelined by the gravitas Anurag Kashyap and Nawaz carry.
One thing that totally bowled me over is the film’s music composed by Rohan-Rohan with lyrics from Rohan Gokhale. It’s simply outstanding, and each time the track Beparda is played in the background, you feel a sense of freedom, celebration and joy. It aptly captures the essence of what Harika is going through in her heart when she meets the woman inside her.
Haddi is a bone-chilling crime drama that will make you angry, scared and evoke a sense of fear, but the moments when you see Harika and her innocence, it puts a smile on your face. The film is now streaming on Zee5.