Stop right here. Shahid is the sort of rare raw unnerving journey into a socio-political reality that our cinema needs to undertake regularly but seldom does. Our filmmakers largely veer away from doing films whose redolent realism could ruffle political feathers.
First and foremost, Hansal Mehta's film on the real-life slain lawyer Shahid Azmi is a fearless work. Fearless and unfettered, Mehta wastes no time in establishing the monstrous marginalization of the Muslim community in a society where terrorism has blurred the majority community's sense of propriety to the extent of unmitigated bigotry.
Shahid is an exposition on abject isolation. There is a harrowing sequence of police brutality in the film where the film's Muslim lawyer-hero sits on the hard floor of a police station stark naked shivering as the cop repeatedly accuses Shahid of terror activities. The protagonist's absolute humiliation at that point in the narration hits us where it hurts the most.
Predominantly Shahid is about an impatient society anxieties to find scapegoats for the growing violence all around us. In Shahid, Mehta chronicles the life of lawyer Shahid Azmi with the kind of deft clenched directness that one encounters in the docu-dramas of Costa-Gavras or nearer home, the searching searing cinema of the uprooted and isolated individual that Adoor Gopalkrishnan specialises in.
The silence of the night is punctured by the shrill sound of the phone. Slurred threats are hurled. Taking the abuse on his chin, the crusading lawyer, played with scintillating austerity by Rajkumar Yadav, sits stoically at the centre of the debris of destruction of distrust as he undertakes a jehad to prove the innocence of the arbitrarily accused.
What would those wretched TADA under trials, locked up and left to languish for life, have done without Shahid Azmi to fight for their lives?
Of course, he pays with his life. Whether it's Romeo or Shahid, all heroes must come to a suitably sticky end. That's what you get for trying to be a hero. Sometimes while you try to be larger than life, life creeps up on you to make its own outrageous claims.
Mehta has set out to convert the slain lawyer's valorous tale into an authentic exposition on the residue of retribution. Shahid is a must-see film with an absolutely impeccable subtext that can be read as an urgent warning against the politics of isolation practiced by many political parties. Be warned. You might be voting for violence.
Have a look at the slide show for images and further review of Shahid.