Shahid: This one is for the critics

MUMBAI: Shahid is a bio-pic of a Mumbai lawyer, Shahid Azmi, whose story itself is a readymade film plot with so many twists and turns and an untimely death as he was shot down in his office at the young age of 32.

Shahid and his three brothers, along with their mother, occupy a mezzanine one-room house in a congested Muslim locality of Mumbai. Shahid is keen to study and for this purpose argues with his family to keep the lights on at night even though it disturbs them. One such night, Shahid hears some commotion in the area and steps out to check the cause. There he sees bodies burning or slain with swords. Wanting to return home, he keeps knocking but the family is not sure it is him. The incident makes an instant impact on Shahid who, on an impulse, leaves home to head to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to train as a terrorist. He soon realizes that he was in the wrong place and runs away to head back home.

But here he is arrested for plotting against the state and charged under TADA to serve seven years in Tihar jail, Delhi. Like Shahid, there are also others behind bars even though they are innocent. The jail also has an inmate belonging to a terrorist group who tries to brainwash Shahid and other Muslim inmates to join the group. But Shahid is lucky to meet a character played by Kay Kay Menon, and a professor, both framed under false charges. Menon warns him to keep away from bad elements and advises that if he wanted to change the system, he needed to join it. Shahid decides to study further from within the jail and the professor helps him. Soon he is acquitted.

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala, Siddhartha Roy Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, Sunil Bohra.

Director: Hansal Mehta.

Cast: Rajkumar, Kay Kay Menon, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, Tigmnshu Dhulia, Vipin Sharma, Prabhleen Sandhu, Yusuf Hussain.

After being freed, Shahid goes on to finish his masters in law and joins a renowned law firm where he lasts only few months before going on to work independently. He fights for the Muslim youth charged under another stringent law, POTA, but who Shahid thinks are innocent. Shahid fights these cases pro bono on requests from NGOs, winning 17 acquittals in his seven-year career before being shot dead defending a 26/11 accused who too was later acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The film’sportrayal of the Muslim pockets of the city looks authentic. While it would have been tempting for the director to linger a bit longer on riots and the Kashmir training parts, he wisely avoids it, keeping only as much footage as needed to make the point. The jail portion is made to look too easy and the inmates look like they are on a picnic. Though a lot of the film is shot in court rooms, the court rooms look shoddy. However, the court duels between Shahid and opposing lawyers are interesting. Rajkumar playing Shahid is excellent throughout the film, whether in his interactions with family or clients; his portrayal of a concerned lawyer is lifelike. Kay Kay Menon, in a brief role, is pleasant. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, Prabal Punjabi, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vipin Sharma, Prabhleen Sandhu and Baljinder Kaur (as Ammi) are all very good.

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