It's just two months short of a year that Hansal Mehta’s Shahid has been doing rounds of Indian film circuits, being screened at various film festivals.
The Raj Kumar Yadav-starrer movie finally hits theatres today. Coming from Anurag Kashyap’s camp, who has produced the film, a lot of expectations are attached to Shahid.
Shahid Azmi was arrested on allegations of conspiring against the state in 1994. While serving his term in jail, Shahid studied law and later, after he came out of the jail, he went ahead to defend people accused of terrorism.
In his short stint, Shahid got 17 acquittals for his clients - quite an achievement in our criminal justice system. The Supreme Court acquitted Fahim Ansari of all charges in connection with the 26 November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai after Shahid’s death. Shahid had proved in a lower court that there were not enough evidence against Ansari.
Azmi was shot dead in his own office in Feb 2010. Hansal Mehta’s movie showcases Azmi’s life and turbulences. Simply put in, the director has wonderfully captured the essence, battles and emotions of the protagonist.
Saibal Chatterjee, writes for NDTV, "Angry but remarkably even-handed, it articulates uncomfortable truths about contemporary India, its media, its judiciary and, of course, its people."
Shahid is one of the rare Indian movies, where we are shown the real-life court room, unlike the desi stereotype!
Madhureeta Mukherjee (TOI) agrees: "Nothing distracts the dark and disturbing subject, the narrative is not found guilty of over-dramatizations; indulgence or loaded lines (like tareek pe tareek and Milord, here)."
Hansal manages to strike an interesting balance between the details of events unfolding and the emotional turbulence of the protagonist. Film analyst Vinayak Chakravorty writes for India Today, "The film really gets interesting when the screenplay starts probing Shahid's mind. As physical action slows down and Shahid takes to practicing law, you get a peek into the protagonist's thought process amid superb courtroom drama."
What I find most remarkable is that despite the issue being about a pessimistic situation where people are discriminated in the name of religion and attempts to brand them terrorists, Shahid concludes with optimism, with hopes of things getting better for such victims in the near future.
It does not aim to vindicate the situations with logics such as 'sala system hi kharab hai', but you get a taste of the optimism right in the first half an hour of the movie – War Saab (Kay Kay Menon) who is a co-inmate in jail with Shahid (Raj Kumar Yadav) is serving term for false allegations, but that does not stop him from believing in the system.
In Menon’s initial encounter with Rajkumar, he says, "Wo log kisi ke dost nai hain,...smart log hain. If you wanna change the system, be a part of it," talks about a few men who were trying to persuade Raj Kumar to join hands against the system.
Saibal agrees, "The most arresting aspect of Shahid is that it does not adopt an accusatory tone to narrate the tale of a man who paid the price for daring to stand up for the persecuted at grave risk to his own life."
Mihir Fadnavis, Firstpost writes, "Mehta calls out the hypocrisy and incompetence that has plagued Indian courts for decades."
Sanjukta Sharma (Livemint) writes, "The courtroom scenes are riveting, and are indeed the film’s best parts."
Mohar Basu writes for Koimoi, "Mehta’s tale is taut and convincingly told. Showcasing the grim side of police machinery, the film shows how the police doesn’t shirk before victimizing the minority on the basis of mere suspicion. Raising potent questions about the prevalent attitudes, mores and laws in our country, especially TADA."
As for the performances, all actors have done remarkably well. Raj Kumar Yadav is one name we should now list along actors like Irrfan, who can wonderfully emote with minimal dialogues.
Vinayak Charavorty writes, "It is a career-defining role that soundly announces the actor needs to be taken seriously. Raj Kumar makes every nuance of Shahid Azmi fascinating - as an angst-ridden youth without focus in life at one point, as a shy lover trying to woo the girl, or as a crusader out protecting the wrongly accused. He is the biggest reason you will love this unusual film."
Madhureeta Mukherjee thinks on similar lines, "Raj Kumar is superb; he peels layers to strip to the core of his character. He magnifies the most intense scenes with sheer brilliance of an understated, realistic performance. It warrants applause. And an unadulterated encore.
Prabhleen Sandhu who plays Mariam -Shahid’s love interest and wife, does so effortlessly.
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub proves once again that he cannot be sidelined, no matter how small his role is. He plays the responsible and caring elder brother of Shahid who is there for the protagonist each and every time.
Kay Kay Menon’s act reminds you of Brigadier Rudra Pratap Singh in Shaurya, and you should not expect any less from him. Even in this cameo he leaves a strong impact.
Hansal Mehta says that the film Shahid is his reaction to the real-life incident of Human Rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi. Well, even if you do not know the story or the man, you will love the movie for the sheer display and execution of human emotions, relations and psyche. Don't give this a miss.