Release Date : Oct 18,2013
Review by : Prathap
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Production: Anurag Kashyap, Ronnie Screwvala, Shailesh R Singh, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Sunil Bohra
Cast: Ayyub, K K Menon, Mohammad Zeeshan , Prabal Panjabi, Rajkumar Yadav, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vivek Ghamande
Direction: Hansal Mehta
Cinematography: Anuj Dhawan
Editing: Apurva Asrani
Distribution: UTV Motion Pictures

Biopics, particularly of those personalities whose lives are filled with socially significant events tend to be over-dramatized when they are translated onscreen. Shahid, the story of the lawyer who appeared in courts as the criminal defense lawyer of people wrongly accused in many terrorism related cases, does nothing to either glorify his name and cast him in noble light or sensationalize the events. In effect, what you get is a raw and gritty tale of a man who does not aspire to be anything more than the crusader of human rights.

Shahid is based on the life of the Mumbai based lawyer Shahid Azmi who spent 7 years in Tihar jail, studying criminal law during imprisonment and deciding to fight for justice for those wrongly accused in terrorism related cases.

According to director Hansal Mehta, he made the film to tell Shahid’s story from his perspective since the lawyer has been accused of criminal activities. Whether Shahid assisted criminals to get away from conviction in terrorism cases is contentious. Although the staggering statistics of acquittals (17 of them) in the cases taken up by Shahid during his career spanning 7 years (as shown in the movie’s end title cards) illustrate his abilities as a lawyer, the complexity of his character is not addressed in the movie. Mehta, however, achieves what he sets out for.

The movie opens with a gunshot – of the fateful day when four gunmen walked into his office and killed him. Shahid had witnessed communalism at its worst – riots, people being burnt alive and rape. Made at an extremely low budget, the movie employs various visual techniques to good effect - handheld cameras, improvised dialogues and natural lighting. Shot at Shahid’s own office in Kurla, the movie effortlessly exudes a sense of inclusiveness making the viewer a part of the proceedings.

Mehta stays away from the perils of Bollywood clichés and aids the movie with sharp and incisive writing packing the prominent events of Shahid’s life in a nugget, omitting a few for the movie’s flavor and running time. Raj Kumar Yadav as Shahid is the movie’s might. An actor who gives his everything for his roles, with ease, Raj showcases a layered performance as Shahid. His powerlessness in proving himself as innocent, his gullibility that almost sways his loyalty towards the radicals, his inability to abandon dangerous cases despite receiving constant death threats and his tenderness in expressing his love – Raj never rises above the character’s boundary thus proving to be an effective actor.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who plays his brother Arif, Baljinder Kaur as his mother, Prabhleen Sandhu as his wife Mariam are the movie’s significant pulse points propelling it towards the inevitable climax. Tigmanshu Dhulia as the lawyer Maqbool Memon is on-the-face and his cut-throat attitude is hence incredibly believable. KK Menon’s cameo is refreshing and his role as the accidentally found mentor of Shahid is well written and performed.

The court scenes are nothing like you have ever seen in a Bollywood movie. The desperate arguments between lawyers that often culminate into a flight, the camaraderie of the prosecution lawyer and the criminal lawyer soon after the heated argument and the improvised dialogue delivery that is often imperfect – all these effects add a liberal dosage of drama to Shahid’s plot.

In an effort to embellish the proceedings, Mehta has also taken a leaf out of his own life by including scenes of Shahid’s attack in the court premises. Mehta himself was victim of an assault perpetrated by goons against his earlier movie Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar.

Though the movie’s pace is slightly inconsistent, Shahid might be among the finer movies to come out of Bollywood, this year. It reiterates Raj Kumar Yadav’s stature as the poster boy of Bollywood indie movies, brings back Hansal Mehta to the forefront and stands testimony to Bollywood espousing successful, inclusive storytelling methods and powerful acting.

Verdict: Powerful tale, told incisively.
( 4.0 / 5.0 )


Shahid aka Shahid

Shahid aka Shahid is a Hindi movie with production by Anurag Kashyap, Ronnie Screwvala, Shailesh R Singh, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Sunil Bohra, direction by Hansal Mehta, cinematography by Anuj Dhawan, editing by Apurva Asrani. The cast of Shahid aka Shahid includes Ayyub, K K Menon, Mohammad Zeeshan , Prabal Panjabi, Rajkumar Yadav, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vivek Ghamande.