CAST & CREW
“ Shahid” is based on the real-life story of Shahid Azmi, a human rights activist and lawyer who was assassinated in 2010, presumably for his outspoken views. However, there is a story within this story. Azmi was also the author of ‘ Black Friday’ a book on the real background to the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1992, on which noted director Anurag Kashyap had based his 1994 film of the same name. The film was, however, stuck up with the censors since 2004 when the film was ready, till 2007 when it was released. It was Shahid Azmi who fought the case for the release of the film which was ultimately allowed by the Supreme Court of India. In a sort of posthumous quid pro quo, Kashyap happens to be the co-producer of “Shahid”.
Plot: The life of the protagonist Shahid Azmi, with Rajkummar Rao playing the title role, is shown in flashback, starting with visuals of the inter-religious riots in Mumbai. These are captured graphically in all their mindless ruthlessness and makes Shahid run away in anguish to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, getting trained as a militant over there. Disillusioned, he soon comes back to Mumbai, only to be arrested under charges of conspiring to assassinate some politicians. Due to the extreme torture he is subjected to, he is forced to admit the crime, landing up in jail for the next seven years, where he commences his college education, and later on acquittal continues law education once back in Mumbai.
Shahid starts working with a famous lawyer on completing his law degree and soon starts taking up cases for innocent Muslims held under various fabricated cases or without proper evidence. The film compounds the several cases that he fights and on which he obtains important landmark judgments, in a series of shots interjecting in between flashes of his personal life, like his marriage to Mariam (portrayed by Prabhleen Sandhu). The film carries on with his various legal battles till the one where he is shown defending Faheem Ansari, who was apparently under detention without proper evidence. It is during this period in 2008 that he is fatally shot in his office by two assailants. In a poignant turn of events, Ansari is shown getting a reprieve from the Supreme Court, through the dropping of all charges against him.
Although the brief life of Shahid Azmi was inherently having its own element of drama, director Hansal Mehta (more known before this venture as a creator of cookery shows), cooks up his own variety of drama by highlighting more on the courtroom scenes to bring out the brilliance of Shahid as a crusading lawyer. However, Hansal does not gloss over the gruesome incidents that had provoked Shahid to take up cudgels for those he felt were receiving a raw deal from all sides. In his selection of the lead actors also Hansal has been meticulous, with Rajkumar Rao almost reminding one of the role played by Gregory Peck in the courtroom drama “To Kill a Mocking Bird”. But Rajkumar Rao’s character is not just a brilliant lawyer – he is highly strung person with almost a fanatical zeal to fight injustice meted out to people around him – and he executes all these shades of his character with remarkable dexterity. Although this is mainly a one lead film, there is no dearth of acting talent on display with each of the supporting actors, especially Zeeshan Ayub as Shahid’s brother Arif and Prabhleen Sandhu as his wife Mariam, are indeed impressive. What adds to the overall brilliance of the film is also the deft editing of Apurva Asrani, aided of course with an optimum runtime, and the way the screenplay has been handled by Mehta himself along with story writer Sameer Gautam Singh.
Verdict: It is a happy trend that films, like this taken straight off the newspaper pages or TV screens, are being made more and more. With people getting more exposed to contemporary happenings, these types of films would draw more and more audiences as these would be easier to correlate with. “Shahid” would surely rank as one of the finest examples in this new genre.
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