Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, which is based on lawyer-cum-activist Shahid Azmi’s life, is a hard-hitting film about one man who fought against the odds.
Shahid is the perfect example of how a biography should be made. Based on the life of Shahid Azmi, a lawyer who chose to defend several people accused of terrorist activities, the film traces the life of a young man who fights against the odds to defend the innocent people who are wrongly convicted. Directed by Hansal Mehta, the film stars Raj Kumar Yadav, who reprises the role of Shahid Azmi and Prabhleen Sandhu as Mariam, the wife of Shahid Azmi.
The first ten minutes of Shahid sets the tone for rest of the film which explains why Shahid (played by Raj Kumar Yadav) is so angry with the judiciary system and the society at large which brands someone as a terrorist even before he’s proven guilty. After the 1993 Bombay riots rattle Shahid’s life, he decides to join a terrorist camp in PoK; however, he manages to escape from the camp soon after he realises that he doesn’t want to sacrifice his life. Once he comes back to Mumbai, he’s arrested by the police on the charges of terrorism and years of torture and humiliation completely transforms his outlook on life. His brother Arif tries hard to get him out on bail, but Shahid finds solace in the teachings of War Saab (KK Menon), who encourages him to study hard. Once he’s acquitted of all charges, Shahid takes up law and slowly climbs the ladder. He decides to fight on behalf of the poor and innocent civilians who are on the verge of being branded as terrorists. Naturally, this puts him in a tight spot since the media and others who oppose him believe that he always takes the side of the terrorists. The rest of the story is about the consequences which Shahid has to face due to his work.
Hansal Mehta infuses his film with so much passion that each character in Shahid leaps out of the screen with a gamut of emotions. Take Shahid for example. He’s vulnerable and angry at the same time. After all the humiliation he faces in life, he becomes obsessed with his work as a lawyer to uncover the truth. The film raises an important question over whether it’s appropriate to brand someone as a terrorist without being proven guilty in the court. From a terrorist base camp, where Shahid struggles to come to terms that Jihad is not the right path for him, the action shifts to a court room where Shahid ends up defending quite a few people who are helpless and don’t have a voice. Raj Kumar Yadav nails it and how! Prabhaleen Sandhu (Mariam) and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub (Arif) are good in their supporting roles and at no point of time, does it seem that these two actors are crossing the boundaries of their characterisation. There’s also a good subplot about Shahid’s relationship with his wife as the latter fears for his life.
Anuj Dhawan’s cinematography is top notch and music director Karan Kulkarni does a fine job. Despite Shahid being a low budget film, it’s so well narrated and edited that you are more likely to be completely engrossed in the film. The film does lose its pace in the second act before Shahid finds his calling, but when a film has been made with so much heart, there’s very little to complain about. Shahid is a hard-hitting film and quite inspiring too, if you already know the backstory of Shahid Azmi, who was murdered in 2010. A must watch.
(After it’s world premiere in Toronto Film Festival, Shahid was screened at the 14th Mumbai Film Festival on October 19. The film is expected to release shortly)
Cast: Raj Kumar Yadav, Prabhaleen Sandhu
Directed by: Hansal Mehta
About the Author (Author Profile)
Hemanth writes primarily about Telugu cinema, although he finds inspiration from the works of filmmakers like Woody Allen. Apart from writing, he spends most of his time on Twitter discussing about cinema, travel and life in Hyderabad.