"The minute my film starts getting preachy is the minute I fail as a director," said Hansal Mehta in one of the interviews during the promotions of his latest release Shahid. You wonder then, what exactly will this biopic offer? A mere reenactment of the life that activitist-lawyer Shahid Azmi lived? Is that enough? Well, you really have to watch Shahid's life unspool on screen to experience what an inspirational person he had been.
The movie takes off with the Bombay riots of 92-93, the effect of which is so detrimental on young Shahid that he takes up a stint at a militant training camp in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir trying to find some sense in fundamentalist and radical ideology. His tryst at the militia camp isn't too long for the violence isn't something he subscribes too.
Disillusioned, he returns to his home only to be caught by the cops for being involved with the Jihadis who apparently planned an attack on Bal Thakeray. During interrogation he gets duped into signing his confession form despite not having any proof against him and is sent for 7 years of imprisonment. Shahid makes use of the time to educate himself. On being released he pursues a course in Law and ends up becoming a lawyer who fights against those like him who get arrested wrongly.
Hansal Mehta who has lesser known films like Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, Woodstock Villa etc to his credit comes back with a film so bold, taut and gritty that it makes you sit tight and notice. Right from fall to the rise of Shahid, everything about the film has you glued to your seats. The movie connects you within no time to the life-like story-telling of Shahid Azmi to an extent that you literally feel stabbed on your chest when his life comes to an abrupt end.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta wastes no time to get to the point. The story progresses with each and every scene and the maker within the process touches upon every aspect of Shahid's life, personal and professional. While the first half is extremely pacy and proceeds at a brisk pace, the second takes a slump, which is when the film starts dragging. There are scenes of Shahid and his wife which could've been projected better. However, Mehta picks up the graph again towards the climax which jolts you by its sheer cold brutality.
The best part about Shahid is that it is devoid of any commercial hang ups. Neither do you have songs breaking the flow of the film nor excessive melodrama. There's absolutely nothing Bollywoodish about this film.
You have to watch the film to agree with us that there cannot be a better casting than Rajkumar Yadav in the role of Shahid. The Kai Po Che star breathes life into the character and you instantly associate with the actor. Even Shahid's family in the film is befitting.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta makes such a stark biopic as Shahid with aplomb and ample conviction which translates well into the film. Shahid is not just gritty and gripping but also a highly inspirational and emotionally stirring. One of the must watch films of the year.
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