Sukla Singha

May 29, 2020, 11:48:36   

I do not know what this word exactly means in Urdu. I don't even know if it’s Urdu or Arabic. But all my life as a Hindi movie buff, I’ve known that the word ROOH can be loosely translated to mean a spirit, ghost oraatma. Expressions such as "Meri RoohKaanpUthhi" or "BhataktiRooh" were very common in the Indian horror film industry.
The year was October 2014.
A new film was in town. I was desperate to watch it. But my people thought a Bollywood movie was nothing without good dance numbers and romance, and this was certainly not going to meet their entertainment quotient. So I went to watch this film at a local cinema hall, alone. As I occupied one of the middle seats in the darkness of the hall, flashbacks of the Shakespearean text, and of Partha Sir's lectures on it during our MA first year days kept coming in. In fact, this was our introductory class at the University. 

With Vishal Bhardwaj deftly adapting the Shakespearean tragedy into a saga of bloodbath in Kashmir, and the 'known-yet-new' characters doing their shenanigans on the giant screen, at the back of my mind, I kept thinking of the unfinished dialogues between the guards, the eeriness of the atmosphere at Elsinore with not even a mouse stirring, the confusion in the characters of Salman and Salman, Haider's return to a demolished house and his discovery of a weird exchange of glances between his widowed Mother and his Uncle, the appearance of the ghost… 


My train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a plethora of questions. 
How was Bhardwaj going to bring in a 'ghost' in this backdrop of militancy and aazadi? Would he really bring in the ghost of the late Dr.Hilaal Meer, Haider's father? Would it be convincing enough? Or would Haider be shown hallucinating? 

Deep down in my heart, I knew, these options just didn't fit in!
And then, magic happened. One hour thirty six seconds into the film, HE showed up. A man walking with a limp on a snow covered path.
He came stealthily, complimented the girl on her newspaper article, and revealed that he had come to convey a message. It was for Haider, from his father.
The girl asked: "Aapkanaamkyahai?"

"ROOH... ROOHDAAR.." replied the man as he adjusted his shawl, and walked away...

That's HIM. The rooh, spirit, soul, and the ghost of modern Indian cinema, whose absence will haunt us for a longlong time, while his prophetic utterance of his own immortality will forever echo in our ears:
Darya bhi main / darakhtbhi main
Jhelum bhi main / Chinar bhi main
dairhoon / haram bhihoon
Shia bhihoon / Sunni bhihoon
Main tha / Main hoon / aur Main hi rahoonga

Sukla Singha teaches at a school. She writes stuff in English and Bangla, and is fond of cats. She can be reached at


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