I was looking forward to Meghna Gulzar’s “Raazi”, having grown up with a grandfather who was in the army as well as being a student of history. Though it was commendable, the film didn’t live up to my expectations.
Alia Bhatt plays Sehmat Khan, a young Kashmiri girl who crosses the border to marry a Pakistani army officer, while covertly working as a spy for India, in the run up to the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The story is exciting but the fast pace of the plot often glosses over the build-up of relationships and emotions, hampering the overall effect.
Bhatt as the protagonist tries her level best to portray a multitude of emotions, but doesn’t rise to the challenge. She constantly jumps from an adroit and highly intelligent officer to a blubbering emotional fool ostensibly in love. Her excessive histrionics as a woman don’t impress or evoke any emotion, and neither does her stoic demeanor as a spy.
Her trainer from the Intelligence Bureau, Khalid Mir, played by Jaideep Ahlawat, is a stark contrast to Bhatt’s character. He symbolizes “duty-above-all-else” perfectly and does an admirable job of making his sympathies felt without resorting to hysterics. Vicky Kaushal as Bhatt’s husband and Shishir Sharma as her father-in-law perform their roles well.
Bhatt in a scene from the film. Picture courtesy- www.ndtv.com
The cinematography and music are adequate companions to the gritty plot. A couple of songs that play throughout the film, “Raazi” and “Ae Watan” are memorable and well-suited. Some scenes are exaggerated and unnecessary. Though Bhatt’s character is intelligent, she often puts herself in strangely unwise situations, making the people around her seem blind and buffoonish.
The film is based on a novel written by author Harinder Sikka known as “Calling Sehmat”, which is supposedly a fictionalized account of a spy’s true story. In the best cases these unsung heroes can’t publicize what they do, and in the worst they end up dead or languishing in foreign jails. A female spy is great fodder for a story as most people aren’t willing to believe a woman capable of such activities. The film also focuses on how defense personnel balance familial love with duty towards their country which may demand the supreme sacrifice. There is plenty of food for thought here.
Meghna Gulzar has established a métier in choosing offbeat and impactful subjects and “Raazi” fits that bill well. The film deserves applause for attempting to show a woman’s immense physical and mental strength. By reducing some of the drama and intensifying some of the intrigue, Gulzar would’ve had a brilliant film. Though not quite a masterpiece, the story is fascinating and definitely worth a watch.
Film Rating: 3.5/5
*Poster courtesy- www.latestly.com