Hansal Mehta's Shahid is a gutsy and thought-provoking film, feels Prasanna D Zore.
In the seven years that Shahid Azmi practised law, he managed to get 17 acquittals from India's lethargic judicial and callous investigative systems. He paid the price for it in 2010, when his killers pumped him with bullets at his office in a Mumbai suburb.
That in itself deserved a movie and Hansal Mehta's eponymous Shahid does justice to a complex yet humane character, who went for arms training to a terrorist training camp in the POK, arrested by Indian police on his return, served jail as a TADA detainee and then was acquitted by a court of law for lack of admissible evidence.
Importantly, the narrative doesn't take recourse to sensationalism and stereotype as it winds its way beginning with the 1993 Mumbai riots, Shahid's subsequent landing at a POK terror camp, his release from jail, his practice of law in Mumbai and his defense of those falsely implicated in the series of terrorist attacks that maimed and killed innocents since 2003.
Actor Rajkumar's portrayal of Shahid is brilliant and vulnerable at the same time as Shahid tries to lead a normal life of a family man with his wife, mother and three siblings and defense lawyer who fights for justice of a community that is painted with the brush of Islamic terrorism without thought or proof.
Mehta's Shahid is not an in your face film. It is a subtle, thought-provoking and gutsy story of a person who believed in the power of truth and justice yet knew that the path he had taken was strewn with risks, indifference and ignominy.
What tugs at your heart the most about this film is its linear narrative. Thankfully, Mehta has taken efforts to keep away from stereotyping the Indian judicial system, the Indian investigative agencies, the community of the film's protagonist and all that is ugly about the system.
What is most remarkable about Shahid is that Mehta has told the story as it is. To gain his audience's sympathy, Mehta doesn't hide the fact from them that Shahid was accused of being a terrorist and served jail under the dreaded TADA and yet Shahid's sincerity to help Muslims falsely accused in terror cases and dumped in jails without following proper legal procedures makes you feel for the lawyer.
The actor-director duo have got the nuances and various subtexts of the story of an ordinary Indian citizen right.
One scene worth mentioning here is when Shahid, who prepares for his law exam in his one-room tenement at night, quarrels with his siblings over the light that disturbs their sleep and the finality with which Shahid's mother settles the quarrel.
This scene is reminiscent of what happens in the homes of many Indians, doesn't matter what faith they follow. Mehta has done his home work well.
Shahid, after all, is the story of every Indian citizen who gets overwhelmed by their own circumstances, go astray and yet come back to do what their conscience asks them to do.
Don't miss the film.