ABOUT THE MOVIE
Shahid traces life of a murdered lawyer Shahid Azmi. He was known for defending lower-middle class Muslim men who were indiscriminately picked up by policemen and implicated in charges of Terrorism and communal violence. With no means to defend themselves, without Shahid’s help dozens of innocents would have languished in jail for years. He often worked for free with pragmatism and guts. As time passed, his resolve and death threats to his life both increased. His personal life disintegrated. In 2010, he was shot dead by three assailants in his office.
Hansal Mehta delineates Shahid’s life in a simple and linear arc. Following the 1993 Bombay riots that jeopardized Shahid and his family’s life, he enrolls in a camp training armed dissidents in Kashmir. He returns the following year but is arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities(Prevention) Act(TADA). In the jail he continues his education, made acquaintances with many people whose antecedents are with terrorists on the run or underworld don. He never let them brainwash him. After release from jail and completing his law degree he joins a renowned criminal lawyer in Mumbai. Disenchanted with the work ethics of his employer, he soon starts his own practice. Fighting against the injustice meted out to underpriviledged section who did not have means to fight their battle was the motivation that propelled his career as lawyer.
WHAT DID NOT WORK?
No doubt, Shahid’s life is an inspirational story worth telling. An index of a biopic’s success is biographer’s eye and judgement. The biographer must abstain from induction into the fandom of his subject. A fan made biopic risks carrying the tome of admiration and awe for the subject instead of reflecting his life. Hansal Mehta has done a stellar work with Shahid but there is omission of multiple aspects which indicates that he possibly leaned towards the aforementioned.while outlining the plot. A biopic is not only about chronicling a person’s life using facts, a writer’s personal intellectual, creative stake is also involved. More the writer or director inclines towards over admiration of subject, more the movie distances from actual representation of subject’s life.
Over dramatization and too much admiration of a person’s life are common with most biopics. They are the top reasons why most biopics are projects worth admiring and score well as standalone movies but fall short of reflection of a person’s life, something a biopic is supposed to do. Shahid is a well made movie. It is realistic in approach, a well written plot with hardly any complexity or sinew involved in depicting various aspects of subject’s life. But there are glaring misses. The movie is very uni-dimensional in its portrait. It assumes that protagonist can do nothing wrong and his self-judgement on innocence of his clients does not deserve any screentime.
Shahid was an inspiring figure defending people who would have languished in jail for crimes they did not commit. But how Shahid arrived at the conclusion that his clients are innocent? There were perfunctory glances but a holistic view at this aspect of his work deserved more screentime.
Apart from few glitches, it is a well made movie. The court scenes were well shot and riveting. The research work and detailing involved in filming these court cases is exemplary and successfully hook the attention of audience. The lightning is natural which together with aperture and camera angles effectively miniaturize the claustrophobic, chaotic battleground atmosphere of Indian courts. The dramatization of court scenes is minimal as opposed to what we see in regular Bollywood movies. The movie is directed by “Scam 1992” director Hansal Mehta known for his stellar direction and realistic depiction of the subject matter. He does not disappoint and creates an enthralling piece . The storytelling despite realistic in approach does not exhaust its viewer and successfully captivates the interest for most if not for entire runtime. Apart from court scenes, other sequences in jail or subject’s personal life, all kept the tempo high. The pacing is good. Lightning effects and camera angles are used well for entire duration.
Shahid is Rajkumar Rao’s first solo lead movie. He did an outstanding job in this perfectly pitched performance. Shaid Azmi was an ordinary simple man and Rajkumar captured that essence well with his performance. He neither magnifies not underplays any part to make it dramatic or more audience friendly. The tough interior and resolve of Shahid was captured well. The movie scores in each department be it dialogue, performance, art direction, visuals or writing. Supporting cast also performed their roles well. Prabhleen Sandhu, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub, Baljinder Kaur all did commendable and convincing job. Kay Kay Menon also has an important guest appearance.