After a self-imposed exile, Hansal Mehta is back to filmmaking with 'Shahid', a biopic on the life of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, which has restored his faith in storytelling.
Starting his career with 'Jayate', Mehta went on to make films like 'Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar', 'Chhal' and 'Ye Kya Ho Raha Hai'. Mehta's last film 'Woodstock Villa' in 2008 prompted him to take a step back.
"I don't have any regret for 'Woodstock Villa' because I believe in the old adage that failure is the stepping stone to success. I owe 'Shahid' to my lack of success, to my lack of focus," Mehta told PTI in an interview here.
Mehta realised that he needed to get away from direction two days before that film's release.
"I saw the film and it was my nirvana moment. I felt like I was hit by a hammer in the head. I sat there and realised I needed to do something. When I came out of the theatre, everyone said it was a very good film. I knew then that I had to start afresh," he said.
But when he read headlines about Shahid's murder in 2010, Mehta says he just could not get it out of his mind.
"I think 'Shahid' has some of my anger. Also, I had reached a point in my so called exile where I was very keen to make a film. You can't get away from filmmaking. I now know that I will die in a director's chair," Mehta said.
He began researching Shahid's story barely three months after his murder, getting help from his family, friends and neighbours to build his life-story together.
"I read the headlines about his murder and the idea got stuck in my mind... It was the journey of this boy who was jailed under TADA, who studied, became a lawyer and fought the same system that put him in jail. We tell a lot of stories about terrorists but we do not provide optimism... I found it to be a very optimistic story despite his death at the age of 32," Mehta said.
The film, starring Rajkumar Yadav as Shahid, travelled to some 14 film festivals, steadily building buzz with its strong narrative after first screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012.
UTV Motion Pictures is releasing 'Shahid' this Friday with 400 screens initially but they plan to increase the number as the film picks momentum at the box office.