When a film about a real-life person comes out (biopic) , is it enough to appreciate the film for the good intention in was made under or critique it because it is still a film? I know I am making no sense here but thats the question I was pondering over, coming out of the theatre after watching Hansal Metah’s Shahid.
There is a disclaimer before the title card which said that the movie is based on facts with a mix of fiction. And fiction is what makes this an almost complete story. Raj Kumar Yadav plays the titular character of Shahid Azmi ,a slain Human RIghts Lawyer with an extraordinary commitment towards justice. He was murdered at the age of 32 for having defended a Muslim who was alleged to have been an accomplice in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
The movie starts off with a long take that starts with Shahid’s office and we hear gunshots and we’re later shown a Shahid who is lying dead in his chair. It’s all cuts from there. We are then taken back to a 1993 Mumbai where a young Shahid witnesses the riots involving the Hindus and the Muslims. A Delusional Shahid sings up for a Jihadi camp in Kashmir but storms out soon after he witnesses a brutal execution. He is arrested by the police the day he returns home and is wrongly convicted and imprisoned for seven years. During these 7 years, he meets a string of people who have an influence on his fight for justice in his latter years. One of them War Saab, a wrongly convicted revolutionary played by the brilliant Kay Kay Menon, a charming cameo.
After he is released from prison, he studies law after a few day jobs , and thats when he faces the cold truth that even lawyers are corrupted. Believing in the saying “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”, Shahid sets out on a path towards justice for the common men who have been wrongly convicted in acts of Terrorisms.
The best thing about the movie for me was the casting. Raj Kumar Yadav is the next best thing we’ve after Cannes darlings Nawazuddin and Irrfan. He plays Shahid with such conviction and makes you want to support his cause and believe in what he does. Right from cameos like Tigmanshu Dhulia and Kay Kay Menon to character artists like Vipin Sharma, a large part of the movie works thanks to these commendable performances.
What did not work for me though was the personal life of Shahid involving his client turned Wife played by the beautiful Prabhleen Sandhu. Alternating between the case and his personal life, it starts out charming but soon becomes inconsistent with changes in mood and tone. It could have also done with some crisper editing. Often, a lot of time is spent highlighting Shahid’s character traits. Especially right at the start of the film and then later in the film. It would have hugely benefitted from a more Documentary styled shot selection. But nevertheless an impact will be made on you and will get you thinking about the system.
In an industry where playing it safe is the best bet, Hansal Metah’s gets it going right from the start. With names being thrown around and facts being mentioned, there is no sort of hesitation is delivering the truth. The director goes all in with the boldness never compromising on the truth.
It may not be a perfect film but it is definitely a story that needed to be told. Compromising on nothing, Hansal Metah’s tale of Shahid Azmi is something that needs to be watched just for the kind of conviction and passion with which the movie is made, never for once deviating from the subject at hand. Watch it on the big screen right away. It’s a tale you don’t want to miss out on!