Official Synopsis: Shahid is a work of fiction based on the fascinating true story of slain human rights activist & lawyer Shahid Azmi. Accused of terrorist links, he was imprisoned under a draconian law before he went on to become a fearless lawyer. The film traces the awe-inspiring journey of an impoverished citizen who became an unlikely messiah for human rights and an inspiring testament to the human spirit.
The Official synopsis claims right at the outset that it is “a work of fiction based on the fascinating true story of slain human rights activist & lawyer Shahid Azmi”. So its understandable that there will be some cinematic liberties but when a movie is about justice and truth shouldn’t the movie be factual on at least the important details of Shahid’s life? The movie begins with Shahid running out on the street and witnessing riots and then he is in a terrorist training camp in Kashmir. The training camp scene is just for a few minutes with montage of the usual training scenes and then he runs away from there. In the movie he does witness people getting killed but none of his family members are harmed so the movie is very hazy on what affected him so much and as to how he ended up in Kashmir. And since the real Shahid was only 14 years old may be this early part played by a younger actor rather than Rajkumar Yadav would have made it more credible.
There seem to be different versions of what actually happened. According to this TOI interview – “In December 1992, he was arrested for an allegedly conspiring to assassinate Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Azmi was convicted in 1999 by court constituted under the now-defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and given a five-year sentence. But, he was acquitted by the supreme court later that same year. Azmi was barely 15 years old when picked up by the Govandi police for allegedly indulging in violence a few days after the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992.” ‘”I had seen policemen killing people from my community. I have witnessed cold-blooded murders. This enraged me and I joined the resistance,” the soft-spoken lawyer told TOI on Saturday. Azmi said that the cops had booked him in a violence case and later “framed” him for conspiring to assassinate Thackeray.’ Link
According to this DNA Article – “As a 15 year old in Govandi he had seen and experienced the worst of communalism- his cousin sister being raped and his father being slaughtered in the 1992 Bombay Riots. Burning with hapless indignation, he joined a terrorist training camp in Kashmir, only to be repulsed by the manipulation and brazen slaughter of those gullible enough to play into the hands of terror-mongers. Arrested under the Draconian TADA (Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act), tortured in custody, beguiled into giving a “confession”, lodged in Tihar Jail for six years, he was acquitted of all the trumped up charges levelled against him.” Link
According to this Tehelka article – “The third of five brothers, Azmi’s life turned the day sword-wielding Hindu fanatics rushed at him as he walked home from school just days after mobs razed the disputed Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh in 1992. A Hindu neighbour saved him. “Shahid was never the same again,” his oldest brother, Arif, said as I sat with him last week at Azmi’s house a block away from his office. One day, at age 16, Azmi upped and left, ending up first in the Kashmir valley, and then across the border, with a gun on his shoulder. But he soon came back, disillusioned with the insurgency.” Link
The courtroom scenes are excellent and they capture the chaos with all the screaming and yelling. The way Shahid punches holes in the prosecution’s case using logical arguments is very good. The scene where the prosecutor brings up Shahid’s own past is the best scene of the movie. Do not know how much cinematic liberty has been taken for the scenes between Shahid and Mariyam but they are handled very well and are not filmy/cheesy like the romantic scenes from a recent biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The face blackening scene is very effective and is inspired by the director Hansal Mehta’s own face blackening incident. Link
The jail scenes with Kay Kay Memon are very filmy. Shahid was supposedly shot in his office while working late so do not understand why the director had to show it differently. Also the movie kind of fast forwards through all the different terrorist attacks. Not sure about the real Shahid Azmi but the movie makes it seem like he only fought cases for Muslims.
Raj Kumar Yadav is excellent in a lot of scenes especially the courtroom scenes but he also seems very cheerful/happy in the jail scenes where you would expect more angst. His acting is very similar to his Kai Po Che acting in quite a few scenes. Prabhleen Sandhu is excellent as Mariam whether its in the initial romantic scenes or the confrontation scenes later. Zeeshan Mohd Ayyub who was excellent as Murari in Raanjhana is excellent once again as Shahid’s brother. Baljinder Kaur, Vipin Sharma and Shalini Vasta are very good. Kay Kay Memon is bad in a small cameo and acts with his usual mannerisms. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s cameo seemed totally unnecessary.
Hansal Mehta’s direction is very good for the most part. Its good that he does not try to dilute the movie by putting in any cheesy love story or songs. But fleshing out the early part of Shahid’s life as to how he got influenced and his time in the training camp would have made the movie better. It seems remarkable that Shahid Azmi got 17 acquittals for his clients in just seven years in a country where court cases drag on for years. The movie is not perfect but it does a good job of highlighting the plight of innocent people who are incarcerated for years without much evidence just because of their religion.Tags: Hansal Mehta Member Reviews Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub Prabhleen Sandhu Rajkumar Yadav Reviews Shahid