Shahid Movie Review by Taran Adarsh

3.5

The spectators’ gradual acceptance of alternate/indie films has shown a noticeable upswing in recent years. As a matter of fact, borrowing stories from newspaper/television headlines and making realistic fares is fast becoming a norm this side of the Atlantic. The line between mainstream and alternate cinema is slowly getting blurred, since the spectator is getting a choice to relish varied genres. With celebrities backing these projects, a strong word of mouth on social networking sites and smart distribution strategy, these films reach out to a larger audience today.

Some stories ought to be told. They shouldn’t be confined to newspaper cuttings or news-reports on news channels merely, forgotten/ignored soon after a new story [or controversy] takes over. And Hansal Mehta takes the brave step of tracing the journey of noted lawyer Shahid Azmi. Hansal, an accomplished storyteller who lost his way in between [read forgettable films], seems back on track as he documents the tale of the deceased lawyer. SHAHID, a mix of fact and fiction, enlightens the spectators of Shahid’s journey after being arrested during the riots, right till his assassination in 2010.

A stunning documentation on the life and times of Shahid Azmi, SHAHID is brave, courageous and often disturbing and that’s one of the prime reasons why it makes for a fascinating cinematic experience.

SHAHID is based on the story of slain lawyer Shahid Azmi. Accused of terrorist links, he was imprisoned before he went on to become a fearless lawyer.

While the story of Shahid Azmi makes for an interesting read/conversation, Hansal Mehta makes sure he packages the film with abundant drama [the courtroom sequences are spellbinding] in this less-than-2-hour film. But, at heart, SHAHID remains a disturbing film, with Hansal preparing the viewer at the very outset as Shahid witnesses a gruesome act. The events thereafter — Shahid’s training in a terrorist camp and on return, getting picked up by cops and imprisoned amidst hardened criminals — are chapters that are enlightening.

Hansal tries to be close to reality, filming SHAHID at actual locales — overcrowded neighbourhoods, congested bylanes and cafes — which adds a lot of credibility to the goings-on. The subtle romance between Shahid and Maryam, one of his clients, deviates your attention from the heavy drama that dominates the film. But the highpoint of the film are the courtroom sequences, without doubt.

With SHAHID, Hansal takes a giant leap as a storyteller, bringing his creativity out to the fore. By casting the most appropriate names for the parts, Hansal only cements the fact that it’s the material that can sweep you off your feet. The only time the film falters is when Hansal doesn’t provide details of how Shahid escaped from the terrorist camp and returned to Mumbai safely. The editing [Apurva Asrani] is sharp, with not a dull moment in the narrative.

SHAHID is embellished with superior performances. Raj Kumar portrays the lawyer with brilliance. The sense of vulnerability and helplessness, the uncertain future, the aspirations and just about every emotion that the character encompasses is brought to the fore with ferocious enthusiasm by the actor. Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, last seen in RAANJHANAA, is incredible as Shahid’s brother. Prabhleen Sandhu is exceptional as Shahid’s wife. Also, she has a pleasant screen presence. Kay Kay Menon and Tigmanshu Dhulia, cast in brief but significant characters, are wonderful. Vipin Sharma proves yet again that he’s a remarkable actor. Prabal Panjabi is effective in a cameo. Ditto for Mukesh Chhabra, who enacts the part of a witness. He’s very good. Baljinder Kaur as Shahid’s mother is natural. Shalini Vatsa is first-rate.

On the whole, SHAHID is a brave film. Its gripping story, exceptional execution and bravura performances continue to reverberate much after the screening is over. Strongly recommended!

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2 Comments
  1. Author
    aryan 6 years ago

    Shahid Public Review

  2. sputnik 6 years ago

    Shahid Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

    Rating: 4

    October 18, 2013

    Cast: Rajkumar Yadav, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kay Kay Menon, Mukesh Chhabra

    Director: Hansal Mehta

    “By subjecting me to injustice, the Lord taught me the importance of fairness. By throwing pain, humiliation, and torture my way, he taught me to be strong.” It is with these words, spoken in a voice-over by the film’s protagonist, that director Hansal Mehta’s Shahid opens. Easily one of the strongest films you’ll see this year, it’s based on the true story of controversial human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was gunned down in cold blood in 2010, presumably for defending a 26/11 accused, who, as it turns out, was acquitted last year.

    Mehta cuts a sympathetic portrait of Shahid (Rajkumar Yadav), who we first meet as a young boy scarred by the barbaric violence he witnesses during the communal riots of Mumbai in 1993. The devastating impact of those events prompts him to join a terrorist training camp in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. But in a terrific scene that illustrates the actor’s ability to convey volumes without the crutch of words, he changes his mind and heads back home, only to be picked up and thrown into Tihar Jail where the cops try to beat a confession out of him for his suspected links to terrorist outfits.

    These charges, never proved, are dropped subsequently. But our protagonist really comes into his own (much like the film itself does) when he acquires a law degree and becomes determined to help other innocent people like himself who’re labeled terror suspects without sufficient evidence to support that claim.

    For seven years Shahid Azmi fought the cases of men and women who he believed were wrongly accused and imprisoned under terrorism charges, securing as many as 17 acquittals in all. Mehta’s film is not only a story of courage and conviction, but one that questions the hypocrisy of our legal system, and urges us to confront our own prejudices. In a scene that stings with honesty, Shahid asks a packed courtroom if an accused by the name of Matthew, Donald, Suresh, or More, would be singled out and subjected to the same injustice as his client Zaheer, who has remained in jail for a year-and-a-half although no evidence could be gathered against him.

    If there are problems with the film, it is the questions that Mehta and his co-writers leave unanswered in their rush to beatify their subject. Details about Shahid Azmi’s time and his exact role in Kashmir are hazy. And the filmmaker appears reluctant to go into the subject of who killed Shahid. To be fair, these issues are fast forgotten in an otherwise powerful, moving film.

    Mehta succeeds in giving us a fascinating hero, and constructs an engaging film around him. Occasionally, in scenes between Shahid, his brothers and his domineering mother, the director even gives us moments of unexpected humor. A big reason the film never feels contrived is its remarkable cast and their pitch-perfect performances. Particularly worthy of mention: Prabhleen Sandhu as Shahid’s wife Mariam, who brings depth and real feeling. Also, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub (last seen playing Dhanush’s friend in Raanjhanaa), wonderful as Shahid’s trusted sibling Khalid. Expectedly it’s Rajkumar Yadav who provides the soul of this fearless film. Relying on minimalist instinctive acting over loud theatrics, he delivers his second winning performance this year after Kai Po Che.

    The film itself is brave and unflinching, and oozes the kind of sincerity that you long for in most Hindi films. I’m going with four out of five for Hansal Mehta’s Shahid. Well made, and gripping till the very end.

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