Posts Tagged ‘Shahid’

As we have done in the past, this year too we are trying to source the scripts of some of the best films of the year. As most of you know, the scripts of Hollywood films are easily available online, even the unreleased ones. But we don’t have any such database for Hindi or Indian films. So that has been the primary reason for this initiative. And it has been possible because some of the filmmakers have been very supportive about it. It’s only for educational purpose and much like the spirit of the blog, is a complete non-profitable exercise.

Who doesn’t love a great comeback story. Hansal Mehta’s Shahid was exactly that. The filmmaker who gave us Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, he came back with a terrific portrayal of lawyer and activist Shahid Azmi. It emerged as one of the strongest and best reviewed films of the year. No wonder it’s in Top 5/10 list of most reviewers and journalists.

Thanks to Hansal Mehta, we are sharing the script of the film Shahid today. Read, share, learn, and have fun.

Film – Shahid

Story – Based on real life story of Shahid Azmi

Screenwriter – Sameer Gautam Singh

Additional Screenplay – Apurva Asrani and Hansal Mehta

Here’s an interesting anecdote that Hansal shared with us – This was a draft when the film did not have a title. RGV saw the cover page and thought ‘Based On A True Story’ was the title and for nearly 3 schedules it became the working title of the film.

Hansal Mehta should celebrate his birthday today. After Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar in 2000, he has been making one forgettable film after another. Forgettable might be too polite to describe them. And then he makes a comeback with such a strong film that it grabs you by the throat, makes you sit down, and wonder if he really directed those forgettable ones. A rare achievement that few filmmakers manage to do – to pull themselves out of what can be called “Bro-Filmmaking-In-Bollywood”. This is nothing less than a rebirth.

Fatema Kagalwala tells you why you should not miss this one. Mehta’s Shahid goes straight into MFC’s “Must-Watch” list.

Shahid MFC2

You’ve heard about the film. You might have read the raving reviews too. Some of you have watched it. But the film gets its real glorious moment now. Theatrical release. It’s every film’s Holy Grail. It’s the child bride’s gauna. It’s a validation that matters more than awards at times. Especially for a film like Shahid. One that dares to speak about a man who dared to himself. Especially in our regressive, repressive, intolerant times.

For a long time, I kept pronouncing the title of the film as ‘Shaheed’ as in martyr. And isn’t it so true of the story and the man at the centre of it? You will find a number of reviews telling you how good the movie is. It is. Powerful and uncompromising with the truth. So I will quickly chart down the reasons of why I think (in no particular order) you must watch this movie –

Rajkumar Yadav – We all know he is a defining talent of our times. And so far we have seen him only in multi-character movies. He carries this film entirely on his shoulders and it is not an easy task to sustain. The film is a story of a hero but has an incredibly un-melodramatic and non-manipulative story-telling. It maintains a strongly unemotional, non-manipulative tone, satisfied to observe the characters fighting, losing and winning their battles. Any other actor (except Nawaz maybe) would be torn between trying to underplay the heroism and emphasise the man behind it all. Not Rajkumar. He finds it equally easy to portray vulnerability as he portrays stoicism.

Hansal Mehta – Every film-maker has his or her own journey and mostly it is tough. It rarely depends on how original or independent minded he is. It also rarely depends on his reasons for making the films he does. Hansal Mehta has had his own downward spirals but the important thing is he bounced back when most give up. With this. Fighting a hiatus and a creative bankruptcy (in his words) maybe tough, but fighting an unforgiving, unsympathetic system is much worse. Shahid was not a subject that would be easy to make in a socio-political-artistic environment like ours. But it got made and got made well. That alone deserves applause.

Realism – That elusive, enigmatic bitch that takes talent to realise onscreen. From sets to actors to screenplay to dialogues to costumes to direction to acting to everything else in between. Shahid comes so close to reality it could be yours and mine story. As a Muslim it is mine and well, it was very uncomfortable watching it play out like it did. It must have been uncomfortable for Mehta as well, to choose to include the gory, debasing insult he was subject to after he made Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar. It takes guts to make an effort to heal such wounds through artistic means.

Casting – Hansal Mehta gives complete credit for finding the right actors to his casting director Mukesh Chhabra. All that matters to us though is that Mohd Zeeshan Ayub brings alive the part of the protective, fatherly elder brother and Baljinder Kaur is so good as a Muslim woman I was shocked to learn she was a Punjabi. Prabhleen Sandhu as Mariam, Tigmanshu Dhulia as Maqbool Memon and Vipin Sharma are deft touches in a carefully created canvas.

Zero melodrama – How often do we get to watch films about heroes, about controversial material, about polarising issues, about our social reality that comes without a Dolby surround sound moralising or 3D level emotional manipulation? Shahid loses out on deifying its central character, it may have become a ‘My Name is Khan’ financially if it had done that. But the choice to go strictly biographical in structure, objective in tone and let the man’s journey speak about itself makes this film this decade’s Black Friday.

Muslim as humans – This is not a movie championing Muslim rights. Very few people understand that the right response to bigotry on the basis of racism and sexism is not deifying the identity or struggles of the ‘other’. The right response is to bring humanism into the equation to balance it. The film, just like its protagonist, with a rare perspicacity, speaks for Muslims as humans and not as a religious identity, and the distinction is very important. Especially at a time when we are simply revelling in bracketing people according to class, caste, gender, race, colour, community, geography with a ‘hey, let’s find more reasons to discriminate’ glee.  If the victimised community was Hindu, Sikh or Christian, the film’s viewpoint would have been the same. In our times of muddled philosophies, faux intellectualism and confused, twitterisque moralising, walking this fine line perfectly is refreshing and heartening.

Shahid Azmi – A victim, a trainee terrorist, an imprisoned accused, a lawyer and a crusader of human rights of the wrongly accused. He finished his college degree while in jail awaiting release and in career spanning seven years e had a remarkable 17 acquittals. It is a sign of our times that his end came the way it did. It is also a sign of our times that someone thought his story important enough to be told despite the evident dangers. There is hope.

We keep screaming, we need more movies like these. And now we have one. Go watch.

Hansal Mehta’s Shahid gets a new poster

Posted: October 4, 2013 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, Poster, Posters
Tags: , ,

And it’s killer.

The earlier poster was just a rehash of the old still.

SHAHID_2n 30x40_FIN

To know more about the film (cast/crew/synopsis/trailer), click here.

UTV is on a roll this year. First, they gave a big platform to Ship Of Theseus, made it visible enough, and got screens for it even when Chennai Express was running. Second, repeat the same act with The Lunchbox. And now, they have picked up another terrific film – Hansal Mehta’s Shahid. The film has got a new trailer too. Have a look.

Some of us saw the film at Mumbai Film Festival last year, and can easily bet that it’s another “must watch”. It also has one of the year’s best and break out performance by Raj Kumar Yadav. The film rides entirely on his shoulder and he makes you believe that he is Shahid Azmi.

The film is scheduled to release on 18th October.

Official synopsis

“Shahid” traces the story of a slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi. Set during the communal violence that was unleashed in the city of Mumbai since 1993. We see a remarkable tale unfold. From attempting to become a terrorist to being wrongly imprisoned under the anti-terrorism law to becoming a lawyer, a champion of human rights (particularly the Muslim minorities in India), “Shahid” traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy while following the rise of communal violence in India. The story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice, inequality and rising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit.

The cast includes Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, K K Menon, Yusuf Husain, Prabal Panjabi, Vinod Rawat, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Paritosh Sand, Pavan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Akash Sinha, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub and Mukesh Chhabra.

shahid_04

Aha, finally the good news. Hansal Mehta’s Shahid has been acquired by UTV and they will soon announce the release date. Hopefully the film should be out in theatres in next few months. The film marks Hansal’s terrific comeback after a long time and Raj Kumar Yadav is so effortlessly good that he makes you believe that he is the real “Shahid Azmi”. The film has been doing the fest rounds for quite sometime now. Do watch it when it releases.

UTV really seems to be going in right direction with the perfect balance of masala and non-mainstream films. First, Ship Of Theseus, then The Lunchbox and now, Shahid. I would say i wouldn’t mind the assault of the big budget braindead star vehicles as long as they keep on balancing it with some sold small and good films. And hopefully other production houses will follow them.

Click here to read a post on Shahid written by Ad filmmaker Ravi Deshpande.

Official Synopsis

Shahid is the remarkable true story of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was killed in 2010 by unidentified assailants in his office. From attempting to become a terrorist, to being wrongly imprisoned under a draconian anti-terrorism law, to becoming a champion of human rights (particularly of the Muslim minorities in India), Shahid traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy who became an unlikely messiah for human rights, while following the rise of communal violence in India. This story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice and inequality, whilerising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit. Starring Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu and Baljinder Kaur.

Cast and crew

Director: Hansal Mehta

Language: Hindi

Runtime: 123 minutes

Exec. Producer: Jai Mehta, Kunal Rohra

Producer: Sunil Bohra, Shailesh Singh, Guneet Monga and Anurag Kashyap

Production Co: Bohra Bros Pvt. Ltd. and Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt. Ltd.

Principal Cast: Raj Kumar, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, K K Menon, Yusuf Husain, Prabal Panjabi, Vinod Rawat, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Paritosh Sand, Pavan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Akash Sinha, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Mukesh Chhabra

Screenplay: Sameer Gautam Singh, Apurva Asrani, Hansal Mehta

Cinematographer: Anuj Dhawan

Editor: Apurva Asrani

Sound: Mandar Kulkarni

Prod. Designer: Rabiul Sarkar

Abhishek Kapoor’s new film Kai Po Che has released today. The reviews so far have been unanimously positive. But does it mean anything beyond that – The Big picture? Over to filmmaker Hansal Mehta who connects the dots.

Kai Po che

4 reasons for not watching the increasing number of films released every week –

  1. I am perennially broke
  2. I am lazy
  3. I need to work
  4. My wife is not in the mood
  5. I am hoping I get invited for a preview/premier.

The past few weeks have been different though. The spate of films released and due for release stared at me in the face because

  1. They featured friends in lead roles
  2. They were directed by friends
  3. They were produced by friends
  4. I was looking forward to the films
  5. I felt compelled to watch them

I am going to limit my post to the Hindi films I saw because in the case of foreign films:

  1. I feel inadequate commenting about commenting on them
  2. I did not feel like watching many of them
  3. I am waiting for uncensored DVDs of some of them
  4. I don’t get invited for previews of these films

In the past few years, most significantly 2012, I am seeing a pattern in films that are successful (relatively) and appreciated. A majority of them stand out for their choice of actors, their choice of subject, their non-formulaic narratives and a host of other similarly intellectually stimulating reasons.  One factor that has begun to increasingly stand out in these films is sheer audacity. The more I think about what drew me to watch the films, to like some of them, to dislike some of them and to find some of them memorable was the lack of apologetic film-making that has mostly led our films towards pathetic levels of mediocrity.

I’ve noticed that many film-makers no longer feel pressured to make the same formulaic nonsense with the same boring people over and over again. Many of the older directors also seem to realize the futility of formula and are trying hard to reinvent. Those who aren’t will soon be history.

Ever since I made Shahid, I’ve been asked over and over again about how the trend of biopics is on the increase. The media unfortunately reads trends very poorly and looks for convenient analysis. Trade pundits who have in the past thrived upon silly generalization are very shallow in their understanding of artistic/creative decisions taken by film-makers or in analyzing the success of films that don’t fall into their formulaic comfort zones. The truth is that book adaptations, biopics and stories inspired by true events are an indicator and not trends in themselves. We now have film-makers looking for newer stories to tell. We have film-makers looking for new ways to tell stories. We have film-makers who are fearless. We have film-makers who are not afraid of audacity.

Whether it is Talaash, Gangs of Wasseypur, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Vicky Donor, Special 26 or Kai Po Che, I notice a fearless streak in the directors and the team that has made these films possible. Even potboilers like Dabangg, or before that Wanted, or the recently released ABCD have displayed a certain audacious vision. Rockstar had the audacity to be deeply philosophical and sometimes mendering while pretending to have commercial trappings. A certain Anurag Kashyap whose films either got banned or termed as jinxed is now celebrated because of his delightfully indulgent Gangs of Wasseypur or his subversive take on Devdas. Sujoy Ghosh redeemed himself with the surprising Kahaani. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Pan Singh Tomar was commercially successful. English Vinglish marked the successful return of a Bollywood diva who churned out some of the most cringe-worthy films of my growing up years. The list could be exhaustive and I’m sure it will soon dominate successful box-office lists. On the other hand there has been a steady increase in films (Ship of Theseus, Miss Lovely, Peddlers etc.) that have found appreciative audiences in international film festivals and critics. These films have shown a fierce independence in their making while giving alternate Indian cinema a new lease of life and an unpretentious, fresh form of expression. They have been audacious in their abandonment of what we perceived as ‘art-house’ or ‘parallel’ cinema in India. They were unabashed in their treatment, style, narratives and expression. These and many other films that I have viewed over the past year and this year have challenged audiences, provoked critics and subverted formulaic convention with amazing audacity. Even more encouraging is the fact that producers, actors (including some stars) and trade have begun to embrace the audacious breed, backing them to the hilt.

So what is the point I’m trying to make? It’s simple. Audacity is in. Safe is not safe anymore. Take the second installment of Dabangg. It disappointed because it succumbed to ‘ingredientization’ and failed to live up to the fearless audacity of the first part. Films like ‘Zila Ghaziabad’  or ‘Jayantabhai Ki Love Story’ are passé. They will continue to get made. They will continue to remind us of everything that is unimaginative and about how we have allowed ourselves to be taken for granted all these years.

So here is my two bit gyaan. Whether you aim for the mainstream or the alternate space, make it audacious. Just making it big will soon cease to work – neither for the makers or the audience. Yes, we will have regular installments of successful franchises. We will have ridiculous remakes. We will have mindless, story-less films – but my guess is that all of them will work for their audacity and not for their adherence to convention.

Audacious will soon be safe. Safe is already dangerous. It could soon be suicidal.

Ad film maker and FTII alumni Ravi Deshpande writes on Hansal Mehta’s Shahid and its journey so far. (Disclaimer – Hansal says he has been a guide and friend.)

“From reluctant jihadist to crusading lawyer, the life of Shahid Azmi was a remarkable one. Gunned down while defending accused Mumbai bomber Fahim Ansari, Azmi was transformed into an unlikely martyr. But Hansal Mehta’s new film is much more than a biopic; Shahid captures the zeitgeist of a generation.

Shahid’s story began in the slums of Govandi in eastern Mumbai amid violent riots between Hindus and Muslims. A young witness to injustice, Shahid fled his home to a jihadist camp deep in the mountains but, never a dedicated soldier, he deserted as a teenager and returned home — only to be imprisoned on terrorist charges. Tutored by older political prisoners, he resolves to fight injustice upon his release. Finding work in a law office, Shahid struggles against a system steeped in contradictions and hypocrisies, defending clients labelled “anti-nationalist,” “radicals” or “terrorists.”

Hansal Mehta’s Shahid is as much a testament to a remarkable life cut tragically short as it is a cathartic journey through a city filled it seems with equal measure grave injustice and great idealism.”

– Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director, Toronto International Film Festival.

Consider this : By the time he was gunned down, Shahid Azmi had at least 17 acquittals to his credit, a great benchmark for the small span of time he was an advocate.

So why am I writing about this film? Or rather, why am I compelled to write about the experience of this film? Because the film is as close to a real tale as I have seen. The real story of the film concluded with Shahid’s death but just 2 years ago. His strife is still fresh in our minds. It is a Mumbai tale that Mumbaites know. Difficult to satisfy a critical Mumbaite filmmaker’s mind with a Mumbai story.

In the film, the protagonist is a young lad from the FTII stable of actors, Rajkumar Yadav. Leave aside the fact that the bloke does not age through the 2 decades that the narrative unfolds. This fact does not bother me and has not bothered others while watching his stunning underplayed performance. All the other characters (Casting Director Mukesh Chabra) move through the fabric of the film story with finesse (Prableen Sandhu, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kay Kay Menon, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Vinod Rawat, Suvinder Pal, Pawan Kumar, Vivek Ghamande, Paritosh Sand, Prabal Panjabi, Yusuf Husain)

Their mannerisms and expressions are palpable, the interactions are humanly common stance, and the scenes make me angry, make me cry, make my blood rush through my temples, and sometimes make me smile, even squirm with discomfort.

Hansal’s approach to acting as well as most things in the film has been organic in nature, and bereft of conventional method. Many scenes, even dialogues have often been reworked on location. It is a dangerous terrain for a Director to operate because an actor can easily bend a scene in a fashion that could alter the earlier intent. Hansal chose a difficult route to extract from artists what they felt was the most honest delivery. So in the court scene, when the judge too becomes argumentative with the advocates and the accused, the theatre split into laughter, or when the naked Shahid is tortured in the Lodhi Police Station Cell, the viewer in the next seat clenched his fists.

There are other reasons too why this impact is astounding. The Cell is lit by a single tube, and does not light up the protagonist in agony.

 

Consider this: The DOP (Anuj Dhawan) saw the location (A friend’s godown in Andheri) and said, “Perfect! Lets shoot!” And Hansal as a Director had the balls to do exactly that. Hence the spaces become volumes that the viewer can relate to and inhabit.

Consider this: Shahid’s house in the film is Shahid’s own house, and Shahid’s office in the film where he was shot dead, is in actuality Shahid’s office. A year after his murder, when they were shooting in her house, Shahid’s real mother asked to meet the actor. She just wanted to see him…for her, Shahid was still a part of her ‘present continuous’. Her other son, Khalid Azmi (Played by Vaibhav) has gone on record to say that the film is 95% close to the real story.

So Hansal’s choices, or democratically speaking the crew’s and the cast’s choices were nakedly honest. Hansal was able to guide them through to keep the story of Shahid alive and true. It is one thing to say, fine, I do not care that the actor’s face is not lit up in a scene, and yet another to accept that different digital cameras will land on the shoot on a regular basis.

Consider this: They get a RED MX camera one day, a Red One on another and the next day an Alexa. On some days all they had was a Canon 5D. Hansal and his DOP (Anuj Dhawan) have the guts and gumption to mount it and shoot, to make the most of the time available with the given location and the cast on roll call. What a nightmare for the DI artist and the post-production technical crew.

It looks like a film about the Muslims, for the Muslims, by the Muslims. However, there is not a single crewmember except the artist Arif and the Professor (Played by Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub and Yusuf Husain respectively) who are muslims. Not the protagonist, neither the director, nor any of the artists, nor even the writers. And the film is about the plight of the Muslims in India. Or perhaps anywhere and everywhere in the world. Simple folk who are pious, righteous, and who wean through the hard struggle of life. Muslims who are wronged for the only reason – that they are Muslims.

And yet, the story could be of any community, as one never becomes conscious of the ‘religion’ in the story but is sensitized only to the situation and the events. Go see any other film about the Muslim community made with adequate or handsome funds and compare – which is the more engaging, which is more honest, which is the tougher film to make, which is bringing a truer story for the audience’s appetite in today’s time of the RTI, which has more layers, which sets you thinking, which churns your bowels, which makes you feel guilty, helpless, angry, which is the one not biased, which is the one that makes you more aware, more empowered, which is the one non-exploitative?

So there is no definite genre that the story can be pinned by. It is neither a courtroom dram, although the crucial scenes are set in courts, neither is it a romantic tragedy, although Shahid’s supportive wife leaves him and then he dies, nor is it a martyr heroic film, although Shahid ends his life as a martyr for a cause. In fact, it is all this and more, because Hansal does not steer it to a dramatic fictional tale but insists steadfastly to narrate the story of an individual with all the truisms intact.

Consider this: Shahid was supposed to be a well-funded film by a corporate production house with a star in place. Hansal and Sunil Bohra (Producer) chose the other route lest the shenanigans of the star system or the numbers game shackle them. And they embraced the hardship with a tougher stance of honesty to make a moving, compassionate film.

For any Director to touch and mould his material with a humanitarian approach is one of the most difficult directing tasks. Hansal has not just immersed himself with the material but internalized it, forgotten his leanings, left aside the grammar of filmmaking that he learnt through his earlier seven feature films, as well as rid himself of easy shooting or post production solutions.

Consider this: The editor Apurva Asrani also co-wrote the film. The earlier decision was to make a non-linear narrative as the world over, the traditional linear narrative is considered to be passé and not smart enough for today’s times. Apu is also known for drastic usage of NGs (No-good takes), jump cutting, and edgy editing styles. With the material in front of them, they both opted to be dumb but true to the material and formed a linear narrative! Apu’s edit does not leap out of the screen at you but lets you immerse yourself in the development of the story unhindered.

Consider this: A veteran artist has reservations because her role seems to be just 3 pages in the courtroom. So she decides nearly 8 hours before the shoot to decline. She has doubted the director because he has said that we will improvise the scene and the dialogues as we shoot. But that is the organic way that Hansal wanted to make the film by involving everyone concerned with the scenes.

Consider this: When the village in the hills threw up extras that were Hindus, the lead actor Raj Kumar Yadav had to train them stepwise (12 steps) on how to do Namaaz. The Director read numbers in order to get shots with movements in cohesion from the group. The sound recordist had but just one assistant for the schedule. That is brave for a film with live sound (Sound Recordist: Mandar Kulkarni).

Although the temptation to turn voyeuristic is huge, Hansal’s camera does not try to barge close to the man who is in flames in the riot filled streets of 1993 Mumbai to sensationalize it, nor does it travel from sunset silhouettes to a frontal of the twosome’s faces up North in POK as they share a happy repartee moment, nor does it underline the most significant moment of Shahid’s assassination in the office with a close up or a long shot. Hansal and the DOP refrain from the usual temptations of over dramatizing the situation. The screenplay (Sameer Gautam Singh and Apurva Asrani), the Mise en scène, the acting, and the editing too blends the subtle manner of telling, aided by a music track that does not interfere with the realism. During the depiction of the love story, the dialogues are as matter of fact as can be, and so are the situations.

Hansal’s ingenious shot division helps us see to events in a seamless fashion. This Spartan style of filmmaking lends way to a new language that is close to real life, and not the crafted, arranged carefully kind of a story, spoon fed by loud, crass everything-to-be-said-through-dialogue and underlined by music. The proximity to the material increases manifold and the viewer relates to the unfolding of the story in a much more integral, much more organic manner. No wonder that audiences in Canada (At the Toronto Film Festival) and at the MAMI waited in long ques due to ‘word of mouth’ to see the film. And no wonder that Hansal has had standing ovations at both places.

Consider this: While Music was being discussed for the film, the sound Engineer was asked what ought to be the music. “Sparse, minimal, hardly there types”, he said. His diktat was followed. (Music: Karan Kulkarni)

Hansal’s directorial abilities were never questioned, and infact lauded several times (Dil Pe Mat le Yaar, Chhal, Jayate, etc.) Nor were his sensibilities (it was his own decision to stay away in ‘Wanvas’ at Lonawala for so many years). He meandered just about everywhere in the Mumbai Bollywood terrain of storytelling. This film has cemented his road. Hansal has to start walking on this path which will lead him to greater heights and us as viewers to greater experiences that he will invoke as a refined old-wine director.

I just hope that the film sees the light of the day and does not but just roam the festivals of discerning viewers across the globe. And hoping against hope that the authorities and political parties do not intervene with their typical horse blinds on release or before.

 

Consider this: Hansal and Sunil Bohra (Producer) have refrained from censoring the film and releasing it because they want audiences to see the film in this form; the more the better – wonder what will transpire at the censor board.

It is a significant film of our times about our times. There, I have said it.

(It was first posted on Ravi Deshpande’s blog here)