The actors, from Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (playing Shahid’s brother) to Baljinder Kaur (playing his mother), are very good. But Mehta’s telling, especially in the first half, is laborious and I found myself getting restless. You might too. Thankfully, Shahid gains momentum in the second half. Mehta skillfully captures the Kafkaesque circus of Indian courts, with lawyers arguing, judges attempting to keep order and undertrials languishing in jail.
The film never becomes strident. Instead, Mehta quietly exposes the anti-Muslim stance so deeply entrenched at every level of the law-and-order system. Cinematographer Anuj Rakesh Dhawan snakes his camera through tenements, cafes, trains and buses to create a palpable sense of a permanently festering city. Ultimately, however, Shahid is Raj Kumar’s triumph. His Shahid has strength, anguish and a controlled anger, but also real charm. His smile lights up the frame. See Shahid for him.