Shahid: Striving for justice

Shahid [1] is a movie on Shahid Azmi [2], a Mumbai based Lawyer. The word Shahid originates from the Qur’anic Arabic word meaning “witness” [3]. The life of Shahid as it is depicted in the movie does justice with his name. It appears that Shahid’s life was indoctrinated by his own name.

There is no scope to enter into the venture of knowing Shahid personally. And for me there is little relevance to excavate further to know him in order to understand his legacy. For me, his legacy shows us the path that we should look forward to.

The movie narrates the journey of Shahid in a society which has engulfed itself in an unjust order either by propagating the criminalization of its multiple organ and machinery or being a passive spectator of injustice.


Shahid actively searches for the solution and learns to fight for justice by experiencing injustice [4]. Shahid is an ordinary man. He loves his family. He falls in love with a girl and eventually marry her keeping the family members in dark. He is in a constant tension to meet the stated and unstated expectations of his family members. He is like any other ordinary man. But, at the same time he differs from any other ordinary man. He is committed to provide justice to the people who have no one for them to make their voice audible.

He repeatedly says that justice delayed is justice denied. He works in a judicial system and administrative machinery which has oppressive colonial legacy. There is a tendency to overlook the need of upholding human dignity within the larger debate of National Integrity. The need of the hour is to strengthen the idea of democratic values and strive towards establishing an egalitarian society. Sense of prejudice while handling judicial and administrative proceedings in State machinery is contradictory to ensure these values.


Shahid’s arguments during different court hearings challenges the prevalent judicial mediocrity based on biases, stereotypes and undemocratic values. He uncovers the system that sustains the practice of presenting falls and cooked evidences. The practice that acts as a cooling effect on public anger but fails to satisfy basic human rights.

Shahid who himself had joined terrorist organisation during his early life realised that “Both cruelty inflictors and its victims don’t belong to any religion … It’s a human who kills and it’s a human who dies.”

It is a lesson for us, to realise the potential pitfalls that exists within our State machinery which has failed to secure individual human rights. The case of Shahid is a rare incidence who seeks for justice through his own conviction and commitment. If as a State, we want to eradicate terrorism or any kind of violence, it is the State that should set example through its own action. We must stop violence in police custody. We must secure impartiality in the judiciary and bring reform in existing legal and administrative proceedings that violate essential human and democratic values.


As a society we must reflect critically and become more responsible citizen and contribute for our better future. We must understand that to change the system we must be a part of the process. Shahid as a film stimulates us to be a part of the changing process. Probably, we all do not have as sincere commitment as Shahid had. But we do have a role in creating public perception. We can be a part of generating a national consensus which would ensure upholding human values in guiding the State machinery and strive for becoming an egalitarian society.

If you are motivated to change the system you must watch the movie. Even if you are confused or happy with the system you must watch the movie. The storyline of the movie apparently reduced the so called “acting skill” as a redundant element in this movie. It uses natural settings and knit its dynamic content in a context of familiar day to day activities. The actors of the movie neither fuel fantasy in audience mind nor they create hierarchy due to their personal glamour. The actors situate themselves in their role so naturally that they resolve the antagonism between the reality constructed in the movie and the reality audience live in.

There is nothing dramatic in these episodes. There is no element of desire and entertainment filler. The movie takes its natural course like any normal life. However, the actual drama takes place in the audience mind. It compels the audience to redefine the elements corresponding to terrorism and other violence and the ways State handle these elements. The court room arguments forces audience to separate out the stereotyped prejudices, constructed truth based on fabricated evidences, and public anguish that ignores systemic issues in a democratic system of judiciary.

The movie allows us to redefine our understanding on several issues that we have taken for granted. The movie also redefines the concept of movie itself. I am writing this after watching the movie on October 23, 2013.




  1. Image courtesy: UTV Motion pictures available online at Reference [4].
  2. I am thankful to Devashree Prabhu and Jeenath Rahaman. Their constructive suggestions helped improve the readability of the article.

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