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Great Indian Movies - Shaheed
Nov 04, 2005 01:02 AM 3371 Views
(Updated Nov 04, 2005 02:26 AM)





Please note that I have repeated lots of text in this review from my earlier review of Legend of Bhagat Singh because of both movies is based on almost same story and premise.

Manoj kumar is known for his patriotic image, Mr.Bharat in Upkar (1967), Purab Aur Paschim (1970), and Kranti (1981) but not many of us know, it all started with his brilliant portrayal of Sardar Bhagat Singh in B&W masterpiece Ram Sharma’s Shaheed (1965).

Shaheed portrays heroic tale of Bhagat Singh's remarkable life during India’s independence war in early 20th century. Shaheed is the tribute to man who died at age 23 for freedom of India and reminds us of Indian youth’s scarifies, courage, and selfishness for independence, equality, and secularism during those turbulent times.


At young age Bhagat Singh patriotically enlighten by his uncle’s patriotic songs and his mom’s stories about atrocities committed by the British.

At teenage age, He joins the revolutionaries and befriend with Sukhdev, Rajguru, and Chandrashekhar Azad. When the Simon Commission protested by non-violent freedom fighters led by Lala Lajpatrai in Lahore, General Scott ordered a lathi charge against the protestors and Lala Lajpatrai get killed in the process. Bhagat Singh swears revenge and plots to kill Scott. However, their daring plan fails when they assassinate colonel Saunders instead. Bhagat Singh and his fellow revolutionist escape from Lahore to Culcutta to avoid arrest.

Later, Bhagat Singh realizes that unless the revolutionaries' point of view is publicized, they will never succeed in awakening the masses or driving their point home with the British. He comes up with the ingenious plan of lobbing a hand grenade in the Assembly Hall, making sure not to hurt anyone but to generate publicity in the press. Also, he decides that whoever carries out this mission must give them up and continue to voice their opinions from jail and during the court case.

Everything goes according to plan. The trio of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru arrested along with other revolutionaries. They went to hunger strikes for better food in jail and get sympathy from general public. They immediately become national headlines and adored by millions. Disturbed by Bhagat Singh's popularity, the British execute the three revolutionaries one day prior to their execution day to avoid further complexity.

Scenes and Screenplay

Shaheed is blessed with flawless screenplay, which is true to its premise and covers Bhagat Singh’s life without taking cinematic liberty and distorting the facts. Shaheed’s screenplay captivates viewers with the proceeding by dissolving one scene to another scene cohesively from starts to finish, concentrating on freedom fighter’s life’s chronological events from his child hood to death. There is no mention of Ghandhi, Nehru, Jaliawala Bag massacre, Irvin Pact, and Gandhi's non-cooperation movement in the whole movie.

Even though most of all scenes and sequences are memorable, some of them are impressive – train treasury robbing sequence, Simon-Go-Back sequence, failed attempt to assassinate Scott, Bhagat Singh’s disguise at Lahore railway station, dropping bomb in parliament, hunger strike in jail, courtroom drama, and climax sequence of death conviction.

Critics View

What is “Shaheed” word means? Dictionary says a martyr is a person who dies or suffers for his or her religious or patriotic faith. One of the initial sequences of movie, Young Bhagat asks his mom - who are British and why we hate them. His mom tells him story – Several hundred years ago, British came here to do business and we invited them like we welcome guest in our house and soon they took over power like guest become owner of house and we become their slaves and now we are trying to regain what ours back. Young Bhagat got his reason and inspiration to patriotically dying for a nation's glory and freedom. This sets the ton for remaining of the film. Later movie takes 2 and half hour of horrific tale to enlighten viewers to understand real meaning of “Shaheed” word.

Manoj Kumar is convincible as Bhagat Singh. He portrays Bhagat Singh with perfection be it the humble human being or fiery revolutionist. We all know actors mannerisms kills their portrayal of characters be its Dev Anand’s, Rajesh Khanna’s or Shahrukh Khan’s. One of the best thing happen to Shaheed is Manoj Kumar’s mannerisms of a fingers on a lip doesn’t hinder his portrayal of Bhagat Singh. Even though his mannerism exists in the movie, it’s hardly noticeable or identifiable. Prem Chopra as Sukhdev, actor who played Rajguru, Mahmohan as Chandrashekhar Azad are convincing. Kamini Kaushal as Bhagat Singh’s nationalistic mother is outstanding. Madan Puri as Jailor is efficient. Small problem with Shaheed was its casting of some of Indian actors as British but it can easily ignorable considering movie was made in 60s.

Prem Dhawan’s music gels really well with the proceedings. Most of all songs are immortal and well blended with the proceeding - Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna, Mahendra Kapoor’s Pagdi Sambhal Jatta, Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor’s Mera Rang De Basanti Chola, Mohammed Rafi’s Aye Wattan Aye Wattan.

One of the biggest problems with Shaheed is its second half. It seems stretched little bit too far with courtroom drama, jail sequences, and songs during jail hunger strike and death conviction.

Comparison of Shaheed and The Legend of Bhagat Singh (TBLOS)

Ever since I have seen two best-made movies based on Bhagat Singh’s life within a less than week apart - Shaheed and TBLOS, I can’t help myself but let dog fighting both classics to each other to find out who is ultimate winner.

Shaheed has its share of pros - It has much more powerful emotional impact compare to TBLOS. It has better organized and much more cohesive screenplay than TBLOS. It has much better convincing pre-independence ambience with Urdu as language in Lahore and Punjab than TBLOS. Plus, black and white cinematography seems perfect background for period ambience, No Anti-Gandhi propaganda makes it special treat to watch. At the same time, Shaheed has its share of flaws - Music gels really well alongside story but its very slow and repetitive especially in later half. Also, writer can easily avoided Kaher Singh’s (Pran) story in jail.

TBLOS has its share of pros - I found TBLOS much more enjoyable because of Santoshi’s stylist direction, better cinematic adaptation, sepia and brown tinged toned cinematography for period ambience, contemporary mesmerizing background score, and A.R.Rahman’s masterful patriotic songs. At the same time, TBLOS has its share of flaws with Anti-Gandhi propaganda.

BOTH Shaheed and TBLOS have powerful dialogues and perfect casting of actors as Bhagat Singh. At the same time, both test for audience’s patience being slow in the second half with lots of unwanted songs and lengthy jail and court sequences.

In short, if you are interested in only Bhagat Singh’s biography, Shaheed would be better choice and if you are looking for overall picture of freedom fight for independence in early 20th century, TBLOS is better choice. I would suggest seeing both movies for better overall impact of Bhagat Singh’s freedom struggle.


Shaheed is a powerful and emotional moving saga of the violent movement of Indian independence against British. This is one of the rare movies, which will force you to ponder on values of freedom and what our ancestors sacrificed for free India. It’s a must see.

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