I know I’m really really late to share my Raazi review. Actually, it took longer for me to reflect the beauty of the film in words. Raazi is one of those rare movies that have held up the book hype. Based on the 2008 spy thriller, ‘Calling Sehamamt’ novel, Raazi delivers a mind-blowing experience.
Set during the 70s, Raazi is about a Kashmiri Muslim girl inspired by her freedom fighter father and grandfather to carry out her patriotic duty. The movie uses the tense atmosphere between Pakistan and India to deliver the story. Played by Alia Bhatt, our Indian spy is married to a Pakistani high ranking officer, Iqbal portrayed by Vicky Kaushal. Director, Meghna Gulzar (yes, daughter of THE Gulzar) has given some serious attention to detail. The setting is truly a blast to the past. Jaideep Ahlawat plays Khalid Mir, a Research and Analysis Wing agent who mentors Alia Bhatt’s character, Sehmat Khan and trains her to spy on the Pakistani family into which she is married.
Blast from the past
For most of the target audience, the 70s is not a time period we are familiar with. But the production by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray hits the nail on the head. Costumes fit the bill deepening the spell, all thanks to Maxima Basu Golani’s designs. Apart from the production, the actors went the extra mile to incorporate the 70s styled speech, dialect, and accent. Consistent in all the actors, kudos to Meghna Gulzar for the transporting us to the 70s, keeping it familiar and recognizable.
The story of Alia’s Sehmat unspools at the height of India- Pakistan tension in 1971. After learning about her father’s fight with cancer she continues the family tradition of fighting for her country. She gets married into a Pakistani family so that she can spy on the ‘enemy’. She takes the indignity of being the outsider, the enemy as war is imminent between the two countries but refuses to budge.
Days before her marriage Sehmat is trained by the Research & Analysis Wing of India to be a professional espionage. She is assigned handlers—Jaideep’s Khalid– to whom she reports her observations. Alia’s portrayal is exactly the right amount of convincing to gain the respect of her husband’s family. With plenty of sneaky scenes and cover-ups, her acting coupled with the direction conveys tense moments that cause you to grip the seat and sigh in relief after its done!
Facts! Facts! Facts!
Not only was it script writers Bhavani Iyer and Meghna Gulzar’s hard work, even author of ‘Calling Sehamat’, Harinder Sikka has conducted a thorough fact check. Without marring the actual events or in any way lowering their importance, Raazi sheds light on INS Vikrant and the sinking of PNS Ghazi. It also does not miss represent the 1971 war. How’s that for a history lesson?
A parlay of emotions
Another aspect of the movie which sets it apart in the B’wood cinematic world is a fight with emotions over guns. Alia shows off her acting skills with a nuanced performance. Her exchanges with Jaideep Ahlawat’s character is of a different type of chemistry. So volatile and organic, the characters fetch a tangibility to the scene like no other.
The deviation from conventional espionage thrillers is Meghna using visual cues instead of heavy dialogues. Though the movie is filled with cliché words, the concentration is on the scene settings over the words. After all, silence is golden. Leading to golden moments.
Love and patriotism
Love. How can a Bollywood movie be devoid of it? Raazi is the perfect movie in dissociating love from patriotism. Sehmat falls in love with a man from an ‘enemy’ country. The movie shows a clear demarcation between her love and her patriotism. Raazi delivers patriotism from the Indian without using Pakistan as a punching bag.
Alia and Vicky develop a chemistry that is not plagued by her duty to her country nor his. It is a love for the man in front of her and not the country he represents. By separating these identities, Meghna Gulzar has presented us with a very clean movie devoid of the aggressive jingoism.
It is extremely rare to find an Indian movie that doesn’t carelessly condescend the foe or the villain. No manipulative music, spoon-feeding the audience clichéd dialogues and extremely one-sided narrations which usually plague Bollywood’s attempts at patriotic movies.
The viewer is expected to remember certain details. The movie is held by a fast screenplay and a brilliant central performance. Interestingly, the movie respects patriotism on both sides. Neither side is made out to be a villain or a hero. All characters are trying to do what’s best for their country(ies).
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s musical joys
Raazi is kept soaring in the skies by the melodies of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. They have provided holistic Bollywood music that fits this movie like a glove! Meghna’s crisp direction leaves and the script allows little room to facilitate Bollywood beats. Gulzar’s lyrics and the music direction evokes the sentiment of love and passion for the country. The music is curated in a way to not overstep the bounds of patriotism into nationalism. It keeps the spell of the 70s with a swell of pride.
Verdict: A thumbs up!
If you haven’t watched Raazi already then book yourself a ticket and watch this movie, as a patriot, as an Indian, as a person who appreciates art. And lastly, as one heck of an entertainer!
All of the above is my view, the writer’s view. As a viewer of the movie, how do you feel about the portrayal of the patriotism? Were you transported to the 70s? Did your hair fall off during the tension? Let us know your Raazi review with your comments below!
You might also want to read my review on Veere Di Wedding.