Shahid: Film Review

Hansal Mehta’s Shahid is the story of the city of Mumbai, from the 1993 Mumbai Riots to the 2008 Attack on Mumbai, told through the life of one person – Shahid.

This is not a mere biopic but a bold journey through the life of the human-right activist and criminal lawyer, Shahid Azmi (Raj Kumar Yadav), who stood up for what he believed and died for what he did.

The movie narrates various events from the life of Shahid Azmi, a young boy affected by the Mumbai Riots in 1993 and after a few months, finds himself in a training camp for terrorists. Disillusioned, Shahid returns home just to find himself imprisoned under the nation’s anti-terror laws and suffers the tortures that comes with the imprisonment.

During his days in the jail, Shahid completes his education and soon after his release, studies law and amidst a lot of humiliation and life-threatening situations, becomes a brave champion for a strong cause – defend those, who he believes were wrongly-accused and jailed on charges of terrorism. Spanning over 7 years, his career was short-lived but was successful with 17 acquittals before he was shot dead in 2010 in his office while handling the case of Faheem Ansari, a 26/11 Mumbai attacks accused.

This intense movie chronicles the truth of contemporary India where the impatient society finds a scapegoat for the growing violence in the nation. Unfortunately, if your name reads ‘Khan’, ‘Shaikh’, Irrfan’ and so on and so forth, you may find yourself being under the radar of suspicion. And Shahid as a movie and as a person questions this uncomfortable truth – Why men from a particular community get hauled every time there is a terrorist attack and why does the society and media easily infer guilt on the basis of half-baked charges and implications?

Mehta’s narration is so engrossing that one finds oneself hooked to the movie the minute it starts. 123-minutes into the movie you are not merely hooked, but involved with Shahid empathizing every emotion depicted in every shot.

This poweful story of a man who gallantly fights for what he thinks is right is perfectly-blended with the subtle romance between Shahid and Mariam (Prabhleen Sandhu), some well-observed humor, his relation with his family especially elder brother, Arif bhai (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) – never persisting longer than necessary and the courtroom interrogations. Every element in the movie is perfectly balanced.

Like icing to the cake, be it Raj Kumar Yadav’s pitch-perfect performance or the supporting cast including Kay Kay Menon, Tigmanshu Dhulia, who appeared in a brief cameo, one sees a spectacular performance put together by the cast of Shahid. Not once you’ll feel that the characters are merely acting.

From the locations to the people everything feels so real and authentic that throughout the movie you live in it as the silent, unseen observer.

But no movie is flawless. Even Shahid has its share of glitches. One there is an unanswered question – how and why Shahid ended up in the militants camp and his return back home? Secondly, towards the end of the movie during the trial of Faheem Ansari, in the courtroom scene, late Shahid’s image is altered with his fellow attorney which is not required. The final glitch is that at times, the narration got a little rough and too quick-paced. But as I said this is a plucky film, and such setbacks could have been easily avoided.

In short, this is a fearless movie about a brave soul who lived for what he believed was right. You’ll definitely be compelled to know more about Shahid Azmi once you watch Shahid!

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