Once in a while comes along a film that takes you aback by the direct and brutally honest approach it takes. Hansal Mehta’s Shahid is one such film.
For starters, Shahid, deals with a biopic just like how they ideally should be. No glossing over facts, no shying away from the ugliness and the harsh reality in the name of cinematic liberty. The movie displays a rare bravery while dealing with the sensitive topic of terrorism and how the general perceptions can get skewed and how easy it is for legal investigations to jump to conclusions and stigmatize someone even before he is proved guilty.
Raj Kumar Yadav plays Shahid Azmi, the slain lawyer who defended hapless men who are 'falsely implicated’ as terrorists. Mehta depicts Shahid’s adventurous early life, which includes being briefly part of a terrorist camp and then landing up in jail, with an absolutely believable set up and painstaking detailing. Using real locations like for instance, Shahid’s actual office in the Taximen’s Union in Kurla, the film makes no compromises in telling a hero’s tale.
The courtroom scenes are so real (far fetched from the otherwise glamourised 'tareekh pe tareekh’ kind of courtrooms of Bollywood) yet gripping. Shahid fights for those who he believes are innocent and made into scapegoats in the absence of the ability to catch the real culprits. Shahid knows what it is to be caught behind bars for a crime not committed, as he himself has experienced the prison life and the atrocities that went with it. Instead of turning bitter at being a victim of circumstances, Shaheed turns a crusader to help others get out of such similar situations.
Raj Kumar Yadav shines in the title role with a performance so mature and played with such subtlety. In what could be easily one of the best, if not the best, performances of the year, Raj Kumar lives and breathes Shahid. Catch him in this scene where he defends himself helplessly when a lady lawyer accuses him of being a terrorist and you almost are convinced that this actor has lived the real Shahid’s life. That, is quite an achievement.
A round of applause for the perfect casting. Each of the actors in Shahid look like they just belonged there. Look at Shahid’s ammi (Baljinder Kaur) and it would be really difficult to believe that she comes from any other set up but from Shahid Azmi’s dingy shanty when he was growing up.
Watch this movie if you have the appetite and sense to digest certain gritty, uncomfortable realities. Not often do we get the opportunity to watch a relevant movie that depicts the times we live in, with unblinking directness. But if you think movies are just about shallow entertainment, and truth makes you uncomfortable, then don’t bother.