Banners: Junglee Pictures, Dharma
Producers: Vineet Jain, Karan Johar, Hiroo
Johar, Apoorva Mehta
Director: Meghna Gulzar
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Rajit
Kapoor, Jaideep Ahlawat, Soni Razdan,
Shishir Sharma, Ashwath Bhatt, Amruta
Khanvilkar, Arif Zakaria
Writers: Harinder Sikka, Meghna Gulzar,
Raazi is the kind of movie that makes one proud of Indian cinema. It is a masterpiece of writing, direction and performances. Expertly balancing creative expression with entertainment, it is a human story that is poignant, emotional and patriotically moving. A big ‘thank you’ to Team Raazi and kudos to everyone who was involved in making this gem.
Raazi is not fiction. An engaging extract from Calling Sehmat, a story penned by Harinder Sikka, the film is based on the life of a real person, a young Indian girl in the 1970s, who goes to extreme lengths for her country.
Sehmat is a young, gentle, soft-spoken, college girl who is disturbed by the very sight of blood but is not afraid to risk her life to save a squirrel. She is happily busy in her studies at Delhi University. A phone call from her father Hidayat brings her home to Kashmir, where she is told that she must take her father’s place in helping Indian intelligence agencies get information about the Pakistan Army.
Shemat is told that she has to marry into a Pakistani military family and send information from across the border as the two countries seem to be heading towards a war. Before she can slip into the role of a spy, she undergoes rigorous training under the watchful guidance of Khalid Mir. From learning Morse Code to shooting pistols to combat training, Sehmat masters all these difficult tasks, first with reluctance and pain and then with steely determination.
After her training, she is married off to Iqbal, the second son of Brigadier Syed. As soon as Sehmat moves into her new home, she gets to work reporting on every bit of information that she lays hands on. In the process, she is forced take some gut-wrenching decisions. Despite fear and emotional distress, Sehmat does what is right for her country till the very end.
It is a writer and director’s dream to hold the audience’s attention throughout, and Raazi manages this. While the film is a tad long at over 2 hours, it is not tiresome.
The USP of the film is the way it has been written and translated to the big screen. One must applaud the entire team. Not for one moment do you feel as if the actors are ‘acting’; they live their characters. Ditto for the dialogue.
Credit for way the movie unfolds goes to the writing. The screenplay is taut and the film does not drag. Thankfully, the writing does not descend into heart-thumping patriotism or jingoism. The focus remains on the humane side of Sehmat’s story while also being an edge-of-the-seat thriller. The film beautifully reveals the personal conflicts a spy undergoes.
The camera work is top notch. There are no jarring shots or complicated angles just because it is a spy thriller. The editing is crisp and keeps the narrative well-paced and engaging.
The musical score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is soothing. The Dilbaro song during Sehmat’s wedding is very moving. But, it is the patriotic Ae watan that remains with you even after you leave the theatre.
Performance-wise, Raazi belongs to Alia Bhatt. As Sehmat, she takes on her incredible journey as she grows from a naïve young girl into a spy. Her training sessions are rigorous and Bhatt’s hard work and commitment are evident in every scene. The emotional anguish that she faces every time she has to take a difficult decision, her innocent love for her husband, her sincerity towards her work, the fear on her face when she thinks that she may be caught… she nails every emotion, every expression to perfection.
The scenes where she breaks down are filled with so much pain that there could be no other Sehmat but her. The young actress deftly carries the movie on her shoulders and with the able support of an outstanding cast. Indeed, an award-winning performance.
Vicky Kaushal is outstanding. He proves that, irrespective of how much screen presence he has, all he needs is one scene to prove that he is a talented actor. Jaideep Ahlawat stands out as Mir. While he comes across as a strict mentor to Sehmat, his emotional connection with the young girl who is not just an Indian operative, is beautiful to watch. Rajit Kapoor does full justice to his character. Soni Razdan is okay. Shishir Sharma is superb. Amrita Khanvilkar is good. Arif Zakaria is mind-blowing. Ashwath Bhatt is fantastic. Others lend adequate support.
Verdict: Raazi is a gem. Don’t miss this gem. The movie has taken a flying start at the ticket counter and it is going to be a huge success story.