UTV Spotboy and Bohra Bros.’ Shahid (A) is the story of a lawyer who fights cases of poor and innocent Muslims who are made scapegoats and put behind bars after being dubbed terrorists because of their religion. Shahid Azmi (Rajkumar) is himself a victim of police atrocities, having been jailed on suspicion of creating terror. Once out of jail, he learns law and joins a lawyer’s firm but isn’t too happy with what he is doing there. He quits his job and starts practising on his own, taking up cases of innocent Muslim persons. Shahid is not money-minded and often fights cases on behalf of his clients without expecting any monetary compensation in return.
The fundamentalists are not happy with what Shahid is doing because he has secured the acquittal of several innocent undertrials. They threaten him over the telephone, asking him to back off or face elimination but Shahid is relentless in his fight against police excesses. Then one day, Shahid falls prey to the bullets of the terrorists in his own office.
The story is based on the real-life story of slain lawyer Shahid Azmi and is both, interesting and engaging. Sameer Gautam Singh has written an engrossing story and kept it crisp and to the point. The screenplay, written by Sameer Gautam Singh, Apurva Asrani and Hansal Mehta, is also quite interesting. The drama progresses at a reasonable pace, not giving the audience any time to get bored. But there is a drawback – by its very nature, the story has no element of surprise in it – and this is not because it is based on a true-life story. In that sense, the screenplay moves on a predictable path. Of course, this is not a mistake of the writers but having said that, it must be added that the level of excitement in the drama comes down quite a bit because of lack of shocks and surprises. Also, since the entire film is in flashback, the audience is aware of what the drama will end in. Another defect of the screenplay, from the commercial point of view, is that it moves on a single track. The drama holds appeal mainly for the elite audience only. Sameer Gautam Singh’s dialogues are very natural and enhance the impact of the screenplay.
Performances of the actors are of a high order. Rajkumar excels in the role of Shahid Azmi and makes the character as real as real can be. It is a delight to see Rajkumar’s layered performance and the way in which he approaches the different scenes. Prabhleen Sandhu is good as Shahid’s client, Mariyam, who later becomes his wife. Shalini Vatsa is first-rate as the public prosecutor in the Faheem Khan case. Her facial expressions and dialogue delivery are excellent. Vipin Sharma is superb as public prosecutor More, in the Zaheer Shaikh case. His acting and body language are marvellous. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub is extraordinary as Shahid’s brother, Arif. He leaves a lasting impression in every scene in which he is seen. Baljinder Kaur is nice in the role of Shahid’s mother. Prabal Panjabi (as Omar), Kay Kay Menon (as Ghulam Nabi War), Tigmanshu Dhulia (as advocate Maqbool Menon), Paritosh Sand (as the judge in the Zaheer Shaikh case), Pawan Singh (as Zaheer Shaikh), Vivek Ghamande (as Faheem Khan), Chandrakant Taneja (as the judge in the Faheem Khan case), Mukesh Chhabra (as witness Nooruddin), Nachiket Purnapatre (as witness Swapnil Mazgaonkar), Vaibhav Vishant (as the older Khalid), Irfan Khan (as child Khalid), Raj Singh (as Tariq), Vinod Rawat (as Rafique), Yusuf Hussain (as Dr. Saxena), Sanjay Singh (as Gaffar), Mustaq Kak (as Gulzar Azmi) and the others lend lovely support.
Hansal Mehta’s direction is very good as he has tackled the subject with the sensitivity it requires. He has not let the impact of the drama dip in spite of it becoming predictable after a point of time. Karan Kulkarni’s background music is effective and goes with the mood of the film. Anuj Rakesh Dhawan’s cinematography (additional cinematography by Nusrat F. Jafri and Mitesh Mirchandani) is very good. Apurva Asrani’s editing is sharp.
On the whole, Shahid is a well-made and well-enacted film but it has very limited appeal. It is basically for the high-gentry audience who frequent high-end multiplexes in the big cities only. It will have to depend almost totally on mouth publicity to make a mark. Its low budget is a big point in its favour.