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Millennium Post

The tale that needed to be told

Raj Kumar is one guy Bollywood has braced gradually but surely. He chose to make his debut as a sleazy departmental store guy who tapes his sexcapde in Love, Sex aur Dhokha. His role in Ragini MMS was equally contoversial. Then came Gangs of Wasseypur and Talaash. Now there’s Shahid and it will be utter stupidity to dismiss his mettle.

Shahid
is a biopic that merges hauntingly with reality. Director Hansal Mehta deserves several pats on the back for this one. Based on the life of a lawyer, Shahid Azmi, who fought cases of people wrongly apprehended under the TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention) act -
Shahid
is very real.

Shahid (Raj Kumar) comes from a turbulent past and with sheer vehemence, he heads on to become a lawyer. Witness to the 1993 Mumbai riots, Shahid goes off to train with a terrorists outfit but returns, after brutalities he witnesses in the name of religion. He gets picked up by the police under the TADA act and spends time in Tihar. Shahid’s real journey begins from Tihar. He meets people in jail (Kay Kay Menon in a brilliant cameo) who inspire him.  Death comes to the 32-year-old lawyer on 11 February, 2010. He is shot by unknown assailants in his office. The last case he was fighting for the key accused in the 26/11 case kills off the lawyer who was immensely popular with the poor and the wronged and equally unpopular with the police whose investigational failings he exposed. The director tells us just prior to the end credits that Shahid had 17 acquittals in his career of seven years - impressive because the Indian judiciary is known to take years to pass verdicts.

Raj Kumar steals the show from the very beginning. Zeeshan Ayyub plays a stunning role as Shahid’s older brother  - he dotes, he protects but he also loses it when Shahid chooses to not stay with his family. His frustration is palpable and very real. Shahid’s love interest Mariyam (Prabhleen Sandhu) plays her understated role confidently. There is also Tigmanshu Dhulia in an interesting cameo.

Shahid is a man driven by a purpose. His past weighs on him heavily and that is but obvious. Riots, terrorist training, police torture and then jail - the baap of all fire-tests perhaps.  The camera work is shaky in scenes but you will ignore it all as the story flows because the narrative absorbs you. It is impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role of Shahid because Raj Kumar makes it so real. His corked up rage, his helplessness and his grit to survive is endearing. Clearly one of the finest actors of his time. Don’t miss Shahid. You’ll regret it.
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