Director Hansal Mehta on winning the National Award for Best Director for Shahid

When Mahesh Bhatt watched Shahid he told Hansal Mehta that he has made his obituary film, a film that will make him worthy of an obituary. Interestingly, when the National Awards were announced Mehta was busy giving the final touches to the Bhatt production Citylights. “My phone was switched off and I had no clue that the awards are going to be announced this week. So when producer Sunil Bohra called me on another number I was shocked and then the tears flowed.” For Mehta, the National Award has come as a vindication of many things. After a potent start to his film career with Jayate and Dil Par Mat Le Yaar, Mehta lost his unique voice and was written off by the media when he delivered an absolute dud like Woodstock Villa.

His colleagues like Anurag Kashyap had reached a different level and Mehta with his weakness for alcohol was going nowhere. “It took me some time to regain my sanity after Woodstock Villa but when I read the story of Shahid Azmi in a newspaper I realised I have found the tool to convey what I was going through. I was agitated about the developments in the society and in Shahid I found a catalyst to weave a narrative. It is not just redemption of sorts but also a vindication of the fact that commitment pays in the long run. I called Shahid’s brother Khalid and he was happy. “

Mehta says his was a Lagaan kind of team which had very little going for it till the release of the film. “It is not a 100 crore revenue generator but Shahid will remain alive in the conscience of the audience. This is not a kind of film whose effect diminishes by the opening weekend. In fact there is a demand to re-release the film as people will appreciate it in these times when the divisive forces are in full form. Shahid takes a stand against the disruptive forces on both sides and perhaps that’s why he was silenced,” says Mehta adding that this year cinematic value has been recognised by the jury.