Dear Cinema conducted a fantastic interview with Hansal Mehta earlier this month about his TIFF 2012 entry “Shahid” and his career. Here is an excerpt from that interview by Nandita Dutta:

What is Shahid about?

Shahid is based on the remarkable journey of human rights lawyer / activist Shahid Azmi. It is a very personal account of an inspiring life tragically cut short.  As Cameron Bailey of TIFF describes very beautifully on the TIFF website “it marries elements of political thriller, personal biography and romantic tragedy while being a courtroom drama at its core.”


What inspired you to make a film on the life of Shahid Azmi?

I was out of the country for nearly 3 years between 1990 and 1993. When I returned home I realized that I had come back to a different city from what I had left behind. I saw mistrust, hatred and segregation in a city that had long lived in harmony. As events unfolded around me I grew increasingly disturbed by the inequality, injustice and violence that were destroying our world. Freedom had different connotations for different people. The same laws applied differently to different people. Human beings were now labels – a function of their color/caste/creed/religion.

In my initial films I tried to respond to the world around me by voicing concerns of class, helplessness and injustice (Jayate,1998 and Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, 2000 ). After Chhal (2002) greed, desperation and bankruptcy of ideas took over. I made indifferent films. I lost my identity. My personal life went for a toss. Alcohol became important to me. I had nothing to say and my films reflected that. While my concerns were intact I had lost the will to communicate these through films. After Woodstock Villa (2008) I took a break to simply reflect, cook and rejuvenate. I was happily cocooned in my home on the outskirts of Bombay.

Shahid Azmi’s death changed my life. I realized that I was still angry. I realized that I was still disturbed. I realized that I wanted to express my anguish. This was a story that had to be told.

For the full interview please go to Dear Cinema.