Shahid

shahid-movie-poster-1
Shahid
Release date: October 18, 2013
Directed by: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Raj Kumar Yadav, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Baljinder Kaur, Prabhleen Sandhu, K K Menon, Prabal Panjabi, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vipin Sharma

Every time I read a “Based on a true story” disclaimer before the film starts, or even in trailers or on posters, my interest is pined and I may even Google about the person in question. Besides, I’d anticipate a certain level of justice to be done to the person’s story to an extent. Shahid is inspired from Shahid Azmi’s life, a person who faced the wrath of injustice only to value the importance of justice.

The film has a straightforward approach in terms of its storytelling and its narration as well. Crunched in a small Dongri apartment, Shahid (Raj Kumar) lives with his three brothers and mother. Out of his three brothers, Arif (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) is the oldest and he is Shahid’s confidant. The timeline stretches back to the January 1993 riots to give you the instant realistic creeps as crude violence jumps into your face at the very start.

In a fit of anger, or perhaps to salvage some lost dignity in his own eyes, Shahid joins a militia training camp in the snowy mountains of Kashmir. Soon he realizes he’s not cut out to be a religiously provoked militant, but he’s punished for being “poor and defenseless”, an unclear period of six years. While serving his time he finds his calling, influenced by another inmate, taking up law as a graduation major and putting it to use for fighting for the cause of implicated poor Muslim youngsters, or other persons of interest who are inherently innocent.

His journey makes him increasingly independent, as the organizations and people backing him constantly become worried about Shahid’s own well being in the face of recurring life threats from unknown mercenaries. The “other side” or the opposition is faceless and appreciably handled with the given mystique, as the actual motivations for Azmi’s murderers were never fully looked into. He was defending Faheem Ansari in his last case. The film refuses to focus on the various conspiracy theories and instead decides to tell an inspiring tale of courage and determination.

Raj Kumar’s performance is superlative. He is the bumbling teenager, caught in a web of darkness and the spontaneous firebrand in the courtroom; both with equal ease and conviction. His exchanges with Vipin Sharma, who is the public prosecutor in a case, are gems of unlikely familiarity. The insides of the Indian judiciary are depicted with careful precision, no garish benches, no outlandish glowing coats, just plastic chairs galore.

Again, Raj Kumar’s portrayal reaches other depths by the assistance of his support characters. Shahid’s brother Arif (Ayyub) turns tired of playing the go-to guy, Mariyam (Prabhleen Sandhu) is charmed by the dynamic lawyer’s honesty and eventually weary from his erratic work hours. His mother (Baljinder Kaur) displays the unsuspectingly feisty characteristics that every Indian woman surprises us with. The characters are given a fair treatment, and the actors in return give more than just a fair effort to the task.

Shot on location in Mumbai, there are the few cliched shots of the Haji Ali and the kabootarkhaana, yet they are passable. The cinematography is extensively handheld, which simply adds to the feel of small spaces inside Mumbai cramped houses. At a runtime length of two hours, Shahid (the film) is simplistically appealing and moving. It never wanders off the path and marches on with an underlining positive message even if the result is a known grim one.Ā Perhaps, the best biopic of this year.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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