Haddi is the kind of crime drama that happily wallows in sordidness. The ZEE5 movie has a bunch of instantly detestable characters, an unsavoury money-making scheme and more cynicism that can be found in a political party (not entirely surprising, since one of the characters is a politician).
The plot is driven by vengeance; the lighting scheme suggests the netherworld; there is a healthy body count. Akshat Ajay Sharma’s film tries to distinguish itself through the identity of its revenge-seeker – a hijra.
She is named after the Hindi word for the bone. And she has a bone to pick with her adversary. But before we find out why Haddi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is on the rampage, we must navigate the stereotypes associated with her historically marginalised community.
When we first meet Haddi, she has a knife in her hand and a murderous warning on her lips. As part of a gang involved in blackmail and murder, Haddi proves to be a most effective enforcer. Haddi’s openly gay boss Inder (Saurabh Sachdeva) in turn answers to the venal Pramod (Anurag Kashyap), who is on a land grab spree in order to fund his re-election.
Flashbacks shed light on Haddi’s journey, which involves her mentor (Ila Arun) and her lover Irfan (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub). The sequences set in the past provide the only delicate moments in a literally dark and metaphorically twisted film.
The screenplay, by Sharma and Adamya Bhalla, constantly plays on discomfort. The 144-minute crime drama doesn’t pass up the opportunity to exploit the shock value of seeing Nawazuddin Siddiqui dressed up as a woman. Grotesque close-ups and exaggerated camera angles reveal Haddi’s true self, which is a bizarre choice in a film that wants to get us on Haddi’s side.
The edgy tone, gallows humour (supplied mostly by Pramod) and gratuitous blood-letting finally settle into a semblance of coherence before the film descends into full-blown fantasy. Stripped of its lead character’s gender identity, here is yet another movie about a terrible crime being carried out by people who deserve what they get.
Siddiqui’s Haddi is a peculiar mix of social misfit and serial killer in the making. It’s a compelling, if nerve-rattling performance, meant to stand out as well as startle. The supporting cast is in fine form, with Anurag Kashyap a hoot as a villain who can’t be taken seriously.