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Posted at: May 11, 2018, 6:24 PM; last updated: May 11, 2018, 8:42 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: RAAZI

You’ve got to be Raazi for this one

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Film: Raazi

  • Director: Meghna Gulzar
  • Cast: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Rajit Kapur, Shishir Sharma and Soni Razdan
You’ve got to be Raazi for this one
A still from Raazi

Nonika Singh 

We are living in times when empty cries of Nation first ring so loud that it has almost become a cacophony, a meaningless slogan without soul and heart. So when a film reminds you what true patriotism means, without for a minute becoming shrill or blasé, you can only bow your head in honour that the Nation deserves.

Raazi is certainly that exceptional film as it pitches forward the story of a spy back in time, 1971 war to be precise. And wonder of all wonders the war that has been hailed as India’s singular victory that catapulted former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to demigoddess status only figures as a footnote.

The director Meghna Gulzar doesn’t go into the dynamics of war or war mongering for that matter. The film is set just before the all out war began. What is more refreshing is that it’s sans jingoism of any shade or colour. Indo-Pak enmity reflects but in small ways, if not too subtle, with placards in Pakistan reading crush and flush India. 

The focus remains on the spy Sehmat Khan (Alia Bhatt) and the Pakistani family she marries into and who too like her are doing their job that is protect their country. None of the Pakistani characters are demonised; not even grey shades mind you.

Shishir Sharma as Brigadier Syed, Sehmat’s father-in-law is almost lovable. Vicky Kaushal as Iqbal Syed her husband is as human as an officer this side of the border. Kaushal is suitably understated yet pierces through with his intense gaze. Though majorly the film belongs to Alia, he is simply brilliant when he confronts his wife and asks the all important question; was there any truth in our relationship? 

Indeed, being a mole leading a double life throws many dilemmas. And when the jasoos in question is a petite girl who is all heart otherwise …can she kill without remorse.  Alia mirrors the mixed bag of emotions; fear, affection, vulnerability and guilt rather well.

Except for the bit of excess in the end where she questions her mentor Khalid Mir (Jaideep Ahlawat) she, or her supporting cast for that matter, never ever go over the top. Her patriotic feelings too gush forth with heartfelt sincerity. 

Can a spy film be tender and touching, can it hold your attention with only a smattering of action and can a spy be someone as demure and pretty as Alia? Answers to all these questions are an emphatic yes. A spy story as a rule might be all action and guns blazing.  

Meghna builds the suspense and drama, bit by bit and keeps you on tenterhooks. Just as Sehmat has her heart in her mouth all the time, so do we as viewers, waiting and anticipating the next twist. There is palpable tension all through. But more than that there is emotion as Meghna never lets go the tender touch with which she paints this period canvas.

Indeed, the climax, rather anticlimax is a bit filmy. Or perhaps beyond the rhetoric of pseudo nationalists, Meghna wants to remind us how relations between India and Pakistan can’t be severed. Sure in war time we forget most rules of humanity. But no war can ever finish off all that is humane and good in us. 

Moreover, isn’t patriotism a mere perspective, simply a viewpoint seen through the eyes of the nation we belong to. When the song Ae watan aabad rahe tu plays Meghna makes it relevant; as much for India as Pakistan. And when both lead characters say mulk se upar kuch nahi they not only sound earnest but touch a chord deep within. For that alone Meghna who has also penned some wonderful dialogues deserves all plaudits. 

What makes Sehmat who goes dizzy at the sight of blood, can’t even see a squirrel dying say yes to the life of a daredevil spy may not register with thick-skinned rationalists. But there is no reason you shouldn't say yes to this film. Raazi you ought to be for its espionage at its best, slow fire and engaging, sincere and pertinent, honest and whole-hearted.

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