When is someone labelled a terrorist? Way before the court sentences them. Way before the trial even begins. The moment policemen knock at a door and take someone in, they are labelled. How do we ensure we harass no one who doesn’t deserve it? Is our system willing and able to accept mistakes and reverse it?
Shahid explores a tricky subject: No one can deny terrorism in the name of Islam is a threat. But how do we ensure that we only punish the guilty? How much power should a policeman wield? Who watches the watchmen? The courts, of course. That’s the source of justice in our system, and that’s where the justice is either delivered, delayed, or denied. Shahid is both a victim and a crusader, a pawn and a player, guilty and innocent, as well as the protector of the innocents.
Shahid. A character drawn from real life portrayed with reality dripping in every shot. The environment, and the character that live there help lend credibility to the story, as do the actors that portray them. Even within loving families, there may be resentments and differences and fights, and that’s okay, really. In the middle of drama and anger, there are moments of unexpected laughter, as so often happens in real life. And even though the girl Shahid falls in love with is from the same community, she lives in a different world, and the Muslim community is not homogenous.
Ultimately, however, this is a film about Justice. With a capital “J”. The bigger, larger idea of what justice is, and how far are we willing to compromise individuals for the perceived safety of the country. The film raises the legitimate question of how the putting an innocent person in jail helps the victims. TADA is the villain in this film. The act that was designed to curtail the power of courts and transfer powers to investigative agencies, i.e., Police. Thankfully TADA is now in the past, but the mentality continues. We can’t let even one innocent suffer for perceived national interest.
I’ll end with a quote from George R R Martin’s “Storm of Swords’ about something similar:
‘The king moved… “If Joffrey should die… what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?”
“Everything,” said Davos, softly.’
There is the essence of this film. Innocents are sacred. Nothing justifies punishing them. Nothing.
PS: this was less a film review than an ideological essay. But I urge everyone to watch this. Not a great film, but a very good one. Please watch and encourage. Also, there are probably inaccuracies in the film compared to the real Shahid Azmi, but thats not important.