Real lives can be more inspiring than reel lives, both in life and in death. Shahid, based on the life of Shahid Azmi, criminal lawyer murdered for defending a 26/11 accused, is one such riveting watch.
It takes rare courage to live a life like Shahid did. It takes a genuine voice like director Hansal Mehta(‘Chal’ and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar’),to showcase the same life within logistic restrictions.
The film begins at a small chawl in the by lanes of Govandi in Mumbai in 1993 amidst Hindu Muslim riots. The residents, Shahid and his family miraculously escape death. The fear in the tiny room is taut and palpable as the family of 4 grown up boys cling to their mother in desperation. Traumatized by the attacks he has just witnessed, Shahid runs away to Pakistan occupied Kashmir and joins a Jihaadi camp to train as a terrorist. Every day the leader brainwashes the recruits into willingly becoming suicide bombers. Shahid questions the leader, “If Quran does not permit suicide, how is it right?” This questioning attitude and Jihaadis’ utter ruthlessness, makes Shahid run back home. He immerses himself in his studies, as if determined to find answers in his books. Unfortunately, he is arrested soon for being associated with the Jihadis. In Tihar jail, he meets his true mentors who help him continue his education. Few years later, Shahid is proved innocent and released.
The real story begins here. The film follows Shahid’s life as a lawyer who takes up challenging cases of innocents falsely implicated in acts of terrorism. He ignores life threats and phone calls by terrorists, tries unsuccessfully to balance his own married life and continues with his one man battle against the system where the police catch hold of anyone remotely connected
The film goes deep into two such cases, showing real and rare glimpses of court trails. Every single scene and interaction with defence lawyers and victims, is laced with subtle humour and irony. The battleground of courtroom becomes the viewer’s drawing room as the involvement with Shahid’s life gets real.
Better production values and camera work and a tighter script (Sameer Gautam Singh,Apoorva Asrani,Hansal Mehta) might have taken Shahid to a finer level in cinematic values. However, the story itself told with passion, the docu drama treatment and fantastic, controlled performances by Raj Kumar Yadav as Shahid, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayuub as Shahid’s supportive brother and Vipin Sharma as prosecuting lawyer, together, make the film a gripping watch.
Shahid, a runner up in Gold category at MAMI festival, will hopefully release soon. Watch it to enjoy honest cinema and to know true heroism.