When Sunny Deol at the top of his voice and his exuberant youth exclaimed “Tarikh par tarikh, tarikh par tarikh, tarikh par tarikh, tarikh par tarikh milti rahi hai … lekin insaaf nahi mila my lord, insaaf nahi mila … mili hai toh sirf yeh tarikh”, it signified the typical Indian filmy hero whose dialogue-delivery could enthrall the audiences and whose daredevil stunts could save the victim from the clutches of the villain, always comforting the audience that with such a ‘macho’ as the lead actor , just would surely be rendered to Damini.
The most stunning thing about Shahid is that it is ‘dead-straight’. It presents the society just as it is – complex, grey, at times cruel and often negligent.
Contrary to all this, Shahid lacks any ‘such’ qualities. It even begins and ends with the death of Shahid-the protagonist- which in every sense of the word is so ‘un-filmy’. It takes you through the life of Shahid who witnesses a murder in a communal riot; joins a terrorist camp, but then changes his decision and heads back home; ends up in jail, works hard to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer (from within the jail); after a few years is proven innocent; comes out and continues with his studies and finally becomes a lawyer. However his principles make it difficult for him to continue with the “regular ways” of the world. He starts his own little firm and begins fighting cases for those deprived of justice- the most famous of those being his defense of Fahim Ansari (wrongly convicted under TADA).
The most stunning thing about Shahid is that it is ‘dead-straight’. It presents the society just as it is – complex, grey, at times cruel and often negligent. It doesn’t end up being just the story of Shahid (the protagonist), but is such an immaculate description of how the society thinks and behaves. All the characters are so neatly etched and portrayed. The movie tackles the “highly sensitive”, “blown-up” issue: “targeting of a particular community” so well. Only the director (Hansal Mehta) can tell you how “risky” it is to come up with a film on such sensitive issues. The greatest challenge is to present the subject in an “unbiased”, sensible way, yet not mix the truth with falsehood and stay away from “religious prejudice”. Mehta does all that with perfection. He needs to be applauded for gifting Indian cinema with such a masterpiece. When most are all but concerned about making into the 100-,200- and now 500- crore club, the only solace is that there are still some film-makers who make movies just because there is an inspiring story to be told.
Coming to the star cast, Raj Kumar Yadav gets totally into the skin of the protagonist. It appears a seamless transition into Shahid’s role. His brother’s role essayed by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (by standards of acting) is one of the best I have ever seen and dare say, will ever see. The characters are so real, they make you feel a part of their stories, their pain, their dilemma and their struggles.
The greatest learning I personally had from Shahid is that we talk volumes about the problems of the minorities & the system being corrupt, in the comforts of our homes and that is such a time killer!. However, there was this man Shahid whose life-spoiler was the system, yet he did not nurse hatred for this system, but a genuine urge and impeccable desire to cleanse it and be a part of a reform. That shows the greatness of that man. “Shahid’s[literal,witnessing(to Truth)] Shahaadath will continue to inspire people like me to see the world beyond the illusion we have created for ourselves, to work earnestly for what we is Right and to Reform the system we are a part of and NOT to nurse hatred against it.