Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and Half Stars)
Star cast: Raj Kumar Yadav, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Prabhleen Sandhu, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Baljinder Kaur, Vinod Rawat, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Paritosh Sand, Mukesh Chhabra, Pawan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande
Director: Hansal Mehta
What’s Good: A well intentioned, awe strikingly fascinating and an inspirational plot.
What’s Bad: The film has severe technical shortcoming probably because of being made on a tight budget. The story often slims and slackens but the overall product is so commendable that its flaws can easily be negated.
Loo break: None.
Watch or Not?: I would strongly recommend you to watch Hansal Mehta’s Shahid. Based on the controversial life of human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, Mehta’s tale is taut and convincingly told. Showcasing the grim side of police machinery, the film shows how the police doesn’t shirk before victimizing the minority on the basis of mere suspicion. Raising potent questions about the prevalent attitudes, mores and laws in our country, especially TADA, Shahid is a quintessential humane story sketched with utter simplicity. It gently draws your attention beyond the media reported truths about the terrorist attacks which brand the rumored accomplices as terrorists. They are often just as victimized as the rest out the crowd, perhaps a little more bruised, a little more stigmatized!
Trailing along the life of Shahid (Raj Kumar Yadav) the film bears witness to the adventurous life of slain Human Rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, who may be recounted as one of the most controversial lawyers of recent times. The lawyer was shot point blank in his office while defending the cases of one of the accused in the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack Case. The film traces his early life beginning from his humble upbringing in Govandi, to his decision to join a terrorist organization in POK, to getting framed by the police and living in Tihar jail and finally his journey to realizing his dream of defending cases of men falsely accused of terrorism.
Becoming a crusader of the monetarily impoverished men from his community who easily fall prey to the ruthless designs of the police to pick up on lower class Muslims and slapping incorrect charges on them or booking them under TADA, Shahid came off as a messiah for those who were served as the unfortunate victims of this messy social system. The film is a documentary style told biopic that captures the enigmatic life of Shahid.
Shahid Review: Script Analysis
The story lucidly gathers within its folds a host of varied instances. Beginning with 1992 Bombay Riots, the story traverses across to terrorist training camps presumably in Pakistan to Tihar Jail to modern day Mumbai. The life of Shahid Azmi was just as interesting as controversial. Azmi’s mysterious death triggered off a huge uproar amongst the more fiery brand of journalist, however most took to silence when the lawyer was mysteriously slain!
The film however fails to capture the time passage adequately but those who have encountered the brilliant piece in Tehelka shortly after the man’s death will be more fluent with what makes Shahid an engaging plot! Victimized in the 1992 Riots, the man had smeared himself in right winged so much that he was inspired enough to travel to Kashmir and then POK, even trained himself in a training camp. However in a lapse of a few minutes in the film, it is revealed that Shahid is disillusioned by the violence of insurgent and military groups in POK. After Shahid escapes, he is picked up by the police as a suspected terrorist plotting to assassinate the top ministers of the country.
To quote a certain article I had once read about Azmi, the firebrand lawyer soon got negated by the Indian media which can easily be branded as TRP hungry, but Hansal Mehta’s film pays perfect homage to the man’s stature. Although the plotline drudges at place, the film still takes the bold stand of managing to paint off a realistic and bold picture of Indian system that is quick to judge an accused more by his faith and his social strata and less by his faults!
The film offers fewer dull moments and though it is a one-man show as intended, it doesn’t bore even with its broodingly serious theme. For me, I can vouch that the film instigated me to analyse the attitudes media manages to breed so easily, how a terror suspect is signed off as a terrorist even before the court reaches its verdict, why we have such little faith on our mutilated social machinery and mostly why men like Shahid Azmi remain unsung heroes who died slogging for social justice.
Shahid Review: Star Performances
Raj Kumar Yadav is an actor who manages to command charm even in the plainest of roles and now as he dons a role as hefty as Shahid, the actor puts up an enthralling performance with aplomb. Confidently the actor in each scene convinces you of his turmoil, his helplessness. It is almost celebratory to see him weaving Shahid with such strongly driven passion. I specifically loved the scene where he is vandalized outside court; he manged to convey through his eyes the pain that his past will never loosen its clutch on him.
Prabhleen Sandhu plays Mariam with an effortlessly pleasing air. The actress has a strong screen presence which manages to get her noticed despite being limited in an ineffective and shrunken role.
Md Zeeshan Ayyub is brilliant yet again. After seeing him squeeze out enough laughs from us in Dhanush starrer Raanjhanaa, he is quainter and benign in this one. Playing Shahid’s older brother, the actor does quite a good job in rendering to the film a strong supporting cast.
Kay Kay Menon manages to put himself back in his delightful shoes. After settling for a host of unworthy roles, even in a cameo the actor is heavily impressive.
Shahid Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Hansal Mehta was earlier synonymous with a slew of highly prosaic films but with Shahid not only has Mehta upped his cinematic stature but also revealed to his audiences a story waiting to be told. The film is so brilliantly structured that it will hit on the right nail of public consciousness. And though technically there were both editing and shooting flaws, the story was so heavy on content value that the glitches are ignorable.
It is important to note how the film recreates real life situations in the same shade as the originals. The most striking is the courtroom dialogue exchange which is painted so realistically that you can clearly make it out from the shammy sensational courtroom pictures we have witnessed in mainstream cinema. The feel is more professional and believable and even in the high tension terse situations, the court decorum that is maintained is synced in the film unlike the expected dramatization that Bollywood clamor would have yarned off!
The film invests a lot of its runtime trying to set up the right ambiance and stage for its titular character and etching out his traits, when it could have hammered more by spending greater time in the remarkable life of this slain hero. The editing could have been crisper and though the music isn’t exceptional, it assuredly sits well on its plot. The film is vastly impactful indeed but had the editing been tighter, it could have left by a stronger impact.
Shahid Review: The Last Word
Shahid Azmi should be one of the most memorable dissidents of recent times and Hansal Mehta’s film Shahid does justice in paying the perfect tribute to the slain activist! Quite aptly named, Sahid did turn out to be an angel for many who were serving years behind the bars based on needless false accusations! The film is a gripping-ly told story of courage that ends on a pertinent note teaching us the crucial lesson about the dichotomy of right and wrong. It is extremely essential in a multifaceted country like ours to be fair and the film subtly preaches the diktats of the man – the film pays tribute to – who was haplessly slain at the tender age of 32! It is a captivating film that makes me assign a 3.5/5 for this one! Some stories have that enchanting quality in them and Shahid stands as one of the potent examples in recent times.
Shahid releases on 18th October, 2013.
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