UTV Motion Pictures
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’s anxieties to find scapegoats for the growing violence all around us. In a language that embraces the complexities pertaining to the issue of Islamic isolation, Mehta’s film cracks open the code of that unexplored genre of cinema known as the drama of persecution.
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 specializes 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.
There are some highly poignant electrifying courtroom sequences shot with the languorous devastating dinginess of courtrooms that have killed off all chances of justice for the damned.
What would those wretched TADA undertrials, locked up and left to languish for life, have done without Shahid Azmi to fight for their lives?
Now I ask you, what would Shahid Azmi’s character have been like if was not portrayed by the very gifted Rajkumar Yadav?
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