Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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For the first one hour of “Haddi”, viewers have no clue what the protagonist’s deal is? Is Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character a transwoman or is he playing a gay man who sometimes cross-dresses? His character is simply known as Haddi, so you are just left confused for a solid hour about Haddi’s identity and agenda. Because Haddi kills a man within the first few minutes of the film and then goes to a bigger city with a very clear plan in mind, just that… we have no idea what’s going on in that mind. While the suspense over the motive is still understandable, the ambiguity over Haddi’s gender identity for almost half the runtime was confusingly pointless. In-fact, if the writers would’ve just revealed Haddi’s motive in the first half-hour, it would’ve really helped viewers be more invested in the tale. Until then, Haddi is just a confusing kohl-eyed guy, with a thing for guys, who goes around killing guys.

“Haddi”, directed by Akshat Ajay Sharma, who’s co-written the script with Adamya Bhalla, is set in the present day but feels like it should have come out in the early 2000s. Nawazuddin Siddiqui gives his 100 per cent to the character of Haddi, a transwoman (yes, it’s cleared up) on a mission to destroy a powerful politician and his cronies, although we don’t know why. Not until one hour twenty minutes at least.

Anugrag Kashyap plays primary antagonist Pramod Ahlawat, a corrupt Noida-based businessman who is accused in a lot of land-grabbing cases and whose blood Haddi is after. Anurag smirk and swaggers around like a good Bollywood villain, but he might have made a better evil minion than the top boss. Saurabh Sachdeva is more sinister as Inder, who works for Pramod and runs a brothel in the guise of an orphanage. So, the plot follows how Haddi infiltrates Inder’s gang for revenge, eventually revealing the source of her beef with the neta. There are two twists in the tale, one tragic, one quite intriguing and one of them could’ve been unraveled much sooner.

“Haddi” does have an interesting skeleton of a story, it’s dressed up all wrong, with chaotic screenplay and a mediocre background score. In one of the most violent sequences of the story, the choice of song is so bad, it ruins the bloodbath for action/gore fans. Unlike most movies that falter towards the end, “Haddi” has a more entertaining second-half, with things finally falling into place. Ila Arun has a small but memorable cameo as Amma, a madame, who beautifully narrates the story of Iravan from the Hindu epic Mahabharata and his one-day marriage to Mohini before he sacrifices his life for the war. For the uninitiated – Iravan, also known as Aaravan, is the patron deity of several Transgender communities in India.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is ironically both the strongest and weakest links of this movie. There’s no doubt about Siddiqui’s craft, he gets all different shades his character right – from a fiery ruthless murderer who doesn’t bat an eyelid before killing a cop, to being a vulnerable woman who fears losing her male lover to a cisgender woman. But the casting directors should’ve probably gone for a slightly younger actor for the part, because the plot seems to suggest that Haddi is probably in her early 20s or early 30s, and let’s face it Siddiqui’s age shows, he is almost 50 in real life. His make-up is almost reminiscent of the kind of trans characters we would see in 90s Bollywood movies to provide comic relief.

The writers should’ve tweaked the script to suit the protagonist more, or maybe just set the story in the 1990s to match with their dated aesthetics and theatrics. For quite a few reasons, “Haddi” did not feel authentic enough, even though the actors do justice to their parts. The direction and storytelling needed more work.

Rating: 2.5 on 5. You can stream “Haddi” on Zee5.

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