During the Kashmir conflict in 1995, Hilaal Meer, a doctor agrees to perform an appendicitis operation on the leader of a pro-separatist group. To avoid detection, he performs the operation at his house, much to the chagrin of his wife Ghazala, who questions his allegiance. The next day, during a military raid, Hilaal Meer is accused of harbouring terrorists. A shootout ensues at his home, during which the leader of the separatist group is killed and Hilaal is taken away for questioning. The doctor's house is bombed subsequently in order to kill any other militant hiding in there. Several days later, Hilaal and Ghazala's son, Haider, returns from his university to seek answers about his father's disappearance. Upon arrival, he is shocked to find his mother singing and laughing along with her brother-in-law Khurram. Unable to understand his mother's behaviour, he begins searching for his father in various police stations and detention camps with the help of his fiancee Arshia, a journalist.
The film is a modern-day adaptation of William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, set amidst the insurgency-hit Kashmir conflicts of 1995 and civilian disappearances. Haider, a poet, returns to Kashmir at the peak of the conflict to seek answers about his father's disappearance and ends up being tugged into the politics of the state. Haider is the third installment of Bhardwaj's Shakespearean trilogy after Maqbool (2003) and Omkara (2006).
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